Student Trio Competing at World Computer Programming Championship in Russia

Monday, July 01, 2013
Three men in purple shirts stand up against brick wall

World Finalists: Representing Rose-Hulman at this week's Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals in Russia are (from left) Alex Memering, AJ Piergiovanni, and Erik Sanders. The trio is the only Indiana team to advance from American regional qualifiers. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Three students have joined the next generation of elite computer scientists and software engineers competing in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals through July 4 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Known as the "Battle of the Brains," the world's oldest and most prestigious programming contest is challenging students to solve complex, real-world problems under a strict five-hour deadline. Most problems require a sound mathematics foundation, excellent programming skills and a talent for problem solving as a team.

Rose-Hulman has one of only 17 teams representing the United States, and the only team from Indiana, among the 120 world finalists-from an initial field of more than 300,000 students in computing disciplines worldwide. Each team comprises three students and only one team will emerge victorious to claim "The World's Smartest Trophy."

Computer science and software engineering students Alex Memering, AJ Piergiovanni and Erik Sanders placed fourth out of 144 teams in the Midcentral USA Region ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, a qualifying round for the world finals. Later, the young team (all sophomores at the time) came back to best the top two regional teams at the North American Invitational Programming Competition.

Faculty advisor and coach Shawn Bohner, PhD, director of software engineering, points out that the trio may be the youngest team competing at the National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics in St. Petersburg, Russia. However, he believes the students are capable of competing alongside the world's top collegiate programmers.

"These competitions offer very complex problems, many of which go unsolved. What these students have been able to work together to accomplish this year has been simply remarkable. They led the pack for much of the Midwest regional before settling back (to finish fourth)," says Bohner, who has escorted the team at the competition. "Our students' programming skills have earned respect from competitors and faculty members at some of the top schools in the country. This is another example of how well our students are prepared to solve problems by using skills they learn throughout their collegiate careers at Rose-Hulman."

This year's world finals contest will expose students to key emerging trends and capabilities, such as applying analytics technology to Big Data, a major economic growth engine and career opportunity worldwide.

"Our students are clever programmers that work very well together. I expect them to be ready to take on the best student programmers that the world has to offer," states Bohner.

As the competition's sponsor, IBM is celebrating excellence in the next generation of computing scientists, and provides experiences that will help them successfully transition into business and technology professionals, according to Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM social business and ICPC sponsorship executive.

Other U.S. colleges with a team in the world finals include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, and University of Virginia. Teams also are from throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Russia, Latin America, and South Pacific.