NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College computer programming students found a way to have fun and be successful in a competitive setting with a small online contest just before Thanksgiving.
The “Grand 2017 Midwest Asychronous Programming Contest” involved eight teams from four different schools – Bethel, Kansas State University Polytechnic, Salina, Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, and Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville.
Bethel’s Team Threshers – seniors Matt Lind and Jordan Schroeder of Newton and Neil Smucker of North Newton – finished in first place, solving 10 problems with a total time of 567 minutes.
Bethel’s second team, the GrayMaroons – senior Ryan Fritz, Salina, and juniors Grant Bellar, Abilene, and Alexander Haas, Topeka – took fourth place, solving five problems with a time of 322 minutes.
“This contest was different,” said Bethel computer science professor and programming coach Karl Friesen, “because we organized it as a ‘distributed asynchronous sprint.’
“It was ‘distributed’ because we conducted the contest online, ‘asynchronous’ because we scheduled the contest when it would work best for our respective teams, and ‘sprint’ because we selected problems that could be solved quickly.
“The ‘sprint’ aspect arose from the desire to have a contest where the participants could feel more successful than they might have in the NCNA regional contest.”
At the end of October, the eight teams had all competed at the 2017 ACM North Central North American Region Intercollegiate Programming Contest, or NCNA.
ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) is one of the flagship professional organizations in computer science. NCNA comprises Iowa, Kansas, Manitoba, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, western Ontario, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Team Thresher finished first out of 13 at the satellite site in Kansas City and 42nd overall in the region, out of 207.
“In the regional contest, one-third of the field did not solve a single problem [the Threshers solved three and the GrayMaroons one],” Friesen said.
“So we selected a problem set that contained easier problems. We also shortened the contest time to two hours, instead of the five hours in the regional contest.
“Combined, these two factors made this contest feel much more like a sprint compared to the marathon-like feel of the regional contest.”
The asynchronous nature of the contest means there was not a single scoreboard, but results are available at open.kattis.com/contests/s5meiz/standings for Bethel; open.kattis.com/contests/zo3dv2/standings for K-State Polytechnic; open.kattis.com/contests/npcoza for Missouri Western; and open.kattis.com/contests/pj2m2i for Northwest Missouri.
“There were some irregularities in the K-State Polytechnic contest,” Friesen noted. “The contest was set up as open to the public instead of invitation-only, so the top team in that contest, ‘What does the fox say, ...,’ was an interloper and should be disregarded, as should ‘Team #1,’ which was the coach.
“Also, that contest was run with a different problem set than the rest, which gave K-State Polytechnic more choices at the end, some of which were considerably easier than the problems the Threshers had to solve. So even though ‘KU Dropouts’ had a better score than the Threshers – 10 problems solved in 562 minutes – we’re claiming victory.
“Students from all teams said they felt good about the contest, and that they enjoyed being able to solve multiple problems.”
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 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.
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