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Millersville Students to Compete in ‘Battle of the Brains’

Several Millersville students are currently preparing to compete in the thirty-forth annual IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest. The contest is the world’s most prestigious computer programming competition, with regional competitions expected to draw tens of thousands of students from universities in approximately 90 countries, on six continents, for an all-out “battle of the brains.”

The regional competition is scheduled to take place on November 7, 2009 at Shippensburg University. Local colleges competing include Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, Lebanon Valley College, Millersville University, Moravian College, Penn State Harrisburg, Shippensburg University, and West Virginia University. Millersville’s team is coached by Todd Echterling, a distributed systems specialist of the university.

“Qualifying for ‘The Battle of the Brains’ is a huge accomplishment,” Alan Ganek said, chief technology officer and vice president of strategy for business and technology at IBM Software Group, “These students are tremendously talented and have the ability to solve incredibly difficult problems. They have the ability to make our lives richer and our planet smarter.”

In the competition, students are assigned into groups of three and given a grueling five hour deadline to solve complex, real world problems. One hundred regional champions will meet for the final contest on February first through the sixth of, 2010 in Harbin, China. The best and brightest students from around the globe have the opportunity to win scholarships, prizes and, “the world’s smartest trophy.”

The contest is harsh. Students are expected to understand complex problems, rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms.

“The world faces some really daunting challenges. Problems of pandemic diseases, global climate change, finite energy resources, population density, congestion, and urban development planning. It’s going to take some very bright, creative and innovative problem-solvers to tackle these problems,” said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive of the ICPC, “So we believe it’s very important for the industry and academia to work in partnership to promote excellence in problem solving.”

The IBM corporation has been hosting the competition since 1997. Since then, the contest has grown to eight times as many participants. The contest hosts more than 7100 teams from 1800 universities around the world.

The Association for Computing Machinery is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.