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Bethel programmers place high in regional competition

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For the second time in four years, Bethel College placed first out of all Kansas schools competing in the ACM North Central Regional Programming Contest held Nov. 11 at Emporia State University.

Bethel took two teams to the competition. One of them placed 17th out of around 180 teams from 66 different schools competing in the region. This was Bethel’s best showing in its history of participation in the contest.

The ACM (which stands for Association of Computing Machinery) north central region covers Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, western Ontario and Manitoba. The annual programming competition is dominated by large universities – the top six finishing teams came from the Universities of Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

“The problems posed at this year’s contest seemed to be more difficult than those in past contests,” said assistant professor of computer science Karl Friesen. “Over 60 percent of the teams entered failed to solve a single problem.”

In the programming contest, each team consists of three programmers. They are given one computer, nine problems and five hours in which to solve them. A typical problem contains some background, a description of the task to be performed and some sample input and output.

Each problem is worth one point. The team that solves the most problems wins. In case of a tie, first place goes to the team that solves the problems in the least amount of time from the start of the contest.

“Obviously, a successful team must have strong programming skills to implement a correct solution, but programming skill alone is insufficient,” Friesen added. “A successful team must have strong reading comprehension and abstraction skills to classify the problem and come up with solution strategies, as well as an understanding of the underlying mathematics of the problem to determine if a solution strategy is feasible.

“They must have practiced communicating and working as a team to work together on problems and manage access to the one computer. Finally, they must have excellent diagnostic skills to find and locate errors in their programs. Team members must be both imaginative and methodical to anticipate the pathological test cases allowed by a legalistic reading of the problem statement.”

The members of Bethel’s two teams were Matt Beth, sophomore from Newton, Kyle Claassen, freshman from Andover, Nathan Eigsti, senior from Hesston, Peter Goerzen, senior from Goessel, Tyler Huntley, senior from Goessel, and Alex Unruh, senior from Valley Center.

ACM is one of the premier professional organizations for computer science. The programming competition was co-sponsored by IBM. Other Kansas schools that sent teams were Emporia State University, Kansas State University (Manhattan and Salina) and Southwestern College. ESU was one of 17 satellite sites that simultaneously hosted the competition for the north central region.

The overall rankings for the contest can be viewed online.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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