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Programmers make annual trip to regional contest

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College computer programming students made their annual trip to the ACM Intercollegiate Computer Programming Contest last weekend, finishing in the top half of a field covering eight states and two Canadian provinces.

ACM stands for Association of Computing Machinery, one of the flagship professional organizations in computer science. Bethel competes in the North Central North America region of ACM, which comprises Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, western Ontario, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Bethel sent two complete teams to the satellite site for this year, in Kansas City, hosted by Garmin. Bethel was one of 11 teams at the site. A total of 231 teams competed in the region that day, Oct. 29.

Senior Matthew Rodenberg, Halstead, junior Ryan Fritz, Salina, and sophomore Alexander Haas, Topeka, competed as the “GrayMaroons.” They solved two problems, one at the 39-minute mark and one at the 236-minute mark, both on the first attempt, which earned them 71st place overall.

For Bethel’s team “Threshers,” seniors Mareike Bergen, Moundridge, and Zachary Preheim, Peabody, and junior Neil Smucker, North Newton, solved one problem on their first attempt at the 22-minute mark, which was good for 100th place.

This year’s problem set consisted of 12 problems. Only 37 percent of the teams solved more than one problem.

The overall winner of this year’s contest was a team from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which solved nine problems.

Bethel is the only one of its peer schools within the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference to compete in the ACM programming contest, and one of only two liberal-arts institutions in the state to do so. The other Kansas schools were Baker University, Kansas State University, Manhattan, and K-State, Salina, each with two teams.

In the programming contest, 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.

Karl Friesen is Bethel’s computer science professor and programming coach. Programming team members meet weekly for two-hour practice sessions, with one full-length practice contest before the ACM competition.

Unofficial contest standings may be viewed at

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas 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 2016'17. 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.