Southeast Computer Science Students Finish Third in Missouri S&T Artificial Intelligence Programming Competition

A Southeast Missouri State University team of computer science students took third place Nov. 11 at the MegaMinerAI, a 24-hour artificial intelligence (AI) programming competition hosted by the Missouri S&T Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Special Interest Group (SIG)-Game in Rolla, Missouri.

Southeast students Aaron Gunther, a junior computer science major from Goreville, Illinois, and Michael Ranciglio, a senior computer science major from St. Louis, Missouri, competed on the team, “Arrays Start at Zero,” which took third place in the Global bracket of the “Catastrophe” competition, also known as a “hackathon.” In total, 35 teams competed, including 13 Southeast students participating on five teams.

“Winning such competitions takes months of preparation,” said Dr. Sumanth Yenduri, chair of the Southeast Department of Computer Science. “What Aaron and Michael achieved is nothing short of outstanding!”

Their third-place finish is especially noteworthy considering their competitors, including the first and second place finishers, were professionals with years of experience, in addition to other students, Yenduri said.

“Arrays Start at Zero” consistently performed ahead of most of the other participating teams during development of the AI across the 24 hours,” Ranciglio said. “So, we had a very good pace going for our AI development.”

He said his fellow Southeast students have set their sights on improving their finish in the next competition.

MegaMinerAI, hosted each semester by S&T ACM SIG-Game, requires competitors to use their 24-hours to develop a program to play a novel game developed by SIG-Game’s development team. The details of the game are kept secret until the day of competition, so competitors must demonstrate their wits and coding skills to develop the best artificial intelligence.

Programs are pitted against one another in SIG-Game’s Arena, where participants play thousands of games in the cloud. Game results are available to users, so they can further debug their code and refine their strategy. After the competition ends, a triple-elimination is held to determine the winners. The top three student teams are awarded prize money and crowned as the MegaMinerAI victors.

The Missouri S&T Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Special Interest Group for AI Competition Game Development (SIG-Game) started in Fall 2007 as a gung-ho group of developers from Missouri S&T loosely associated with the S&T student chapter of ACM. Their goal was to create a programming competition designed to test a competitor’s ability to design and implement an effective, artificially intelligent player for a novel game. MegaMinerAI is the outcome of that dream. As the development team grew, and with the success of each semester’s competition, the group formalized under the title SIG-Game.

**Photo Caption: In the top row, from left, are Southeast students Andrew Smith, Stephen Sladek, Aaron Gunther, Michael Ranciglio, Jonathan Renn, Nick Hoang, Jeremy Devore and Austin Williams. In the front row, from left, are Southeast students Kearsten Collins, Akilah Murphy, Emma Knight, Jesse Raines and Simone Ruffin.