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Bethel programmers finish strong in annual regional contest

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College computer programming students continued their strong showings in competition, with their best finish since 2006 in an annual regional programming contest.

Bethel’s Team “Thresher” – seniors Matthew Lind and Jordan Schroeder, Newton, and Neil Smucker, North Newton – finished first at the satellite site Oct. 28 by solving three problems, two on the first attempt.

Karl Friesen, Bethel’s computer science professor and programming coach, took two complete teams (six students total) to the 2017 ACM North Central North American Region Intercollegiate Programming Contest, or NCNA.

ACM stands for Association of Computing Machinery, one of the flagship professional organizations in computer science.

NCNA, in which Bethel competes, comprises Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, western Ontario, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

A total of 207 teams competed in the entire region this year, with 13, including Bethel, at the Garmin-hosted satellite site in Kansas City.

Team Thresher’s first-place site finish was good for 42nd overall, well within the top quarter.

Bethel’s other team, the “GrayMaroons” – junior Grant Bellar, Conway Springs, senior Ryan Fritz, Salina, and junior Alex Haas, Topeka – earned 9th at the site and 129th overall, with one problem solved.

“This year’s problem set consisted of 10 problems,” Friesen said. “One-third of the field solved no problems.”

The 2017 overall winner was a team from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, which solved 8 problems. The top liberal arts school was Concordia University, Seward, Nebraska (4 problems, 19th place), and the top school in the state was Kansas State University, Manhattan (5 problems, 11th place).

Bethel competed against teams from Baker University, Baldwin City, K-State, Salina, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, and Park University, Parkville, Missouri.

To see the complete contest results, go to (select “Garmin” as the site to see how the competition in the same room fared).

Bethel is the only one of its peer schools within the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference to compete in the ACM programming contest.

Last April, Friesen took two teams to Lincoln, Nebraska, to a programming contest co-hosted by the Central Plains chapter of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges and Computer Science and the engineering department at the University of Nebraska, in which Team Thresher (Smucker and two now-graduates) finished first against about 20 teams from colleges and universities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

In these programming contests, teams of up to three students have five hours and one computer to solve as many problems as they can from the problem set. Each solved problem is worth one point, with ties broken in favor of the team that required the least time to program their solution.

To be successful, teams must be able to read and analyze problems quickly, communicate effectively with their teammates, have a broad knowledge of classic problems, algorithms and data structures, and possess the ability to apply those skills to produce working code while under severe time pressure.

Programming team members meet weekly for two-hour practice sessions, with one full-length practice contest before the ACM competition.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.