By Sue Botos
Rocky River resident Ian Skoch was one of six Ohio Wesleyan University students who tested their brain power and computer programming prowess at the IBM-sponsored “Battle of the Brains” regional competition at the University of Cincinnati on Oct. 22. The challenge was part of the 36th annual Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC).
Ohio Wesleyan, in Delaware, Ohio, fielded two three-person teams in the East Central regional contest, which drew 120 groups. Worldwide, contest organizers predicted tens of thousands of college students participating in similar regional challenges in about 90 countries. Tracing its roots to Texas A&M University, the competition has been based at Baylor University since 1989.
Although Skoch said his team did not do well, placing 95th, the 2009 graduate of St. Ignatius High School described the experience as “very enriching.”
“I got to see the types of things I would be expected to do in the future,” said the junior math and computer science major. Also on Skoch’s team were Ethan Chapman of Little Falls, N.J., and Peter Reveles of Los Angeles.
Skoch explained that the teams were given five hours to solve nine computer programming problems. They are then run on test data. If a program fails to give the right answer, the team is notified and given the chance to submit another program.
The three members of each team collaborate to race against the clock as well as rank the difficulty of the problems, figure out the requirements and design successful software systems to solve the problems. All this is done under the scrutiny of the judges.
“The correct answer is the execution of the program, and it can’t take too long to run,” said Skoch, adding that there is a possibility of more than one correct solution to each scenario. He said that only the winning team was able to write a successful code for all nine problems. The following teams were then ranked according the number of correct programs written and the time it took for those codes to run.
Although Skoch’s team and the other representatives of Ohio Wesleyan will not be participating in the world finals to be held in Warsaw, , in May 2012, Skoch felt the experience was worthwhile.
“I would absolutely do it again,” he said. He said that he will put his experience to use in the future, which he thinks will include graduate school. Beyond that, he said, he is unsure of any career plans.