Southeast ICPC Teams Compete at North American Division Championships

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For the first time in Southeast Missouri State University history, two International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC) student teams have competed in the ICPC North American Division Championships (NADC), with one finishing in the Top 15.

At this year’s competition, held virtually April 22, Southeast’s Redhawk1 team placed 13th and Redhawk2 team finished in 40th place out of 150 teams.

“Being able to represent Southeast at the divisional championship brings a lot of pride to our teams,” said Dr. Ziping Liu, Southeast professor of computer science and ICPC co-adviser. “Southeast’s ICPC teams started in 2018. This is the third year that the teams participated in the regional round, and the first time advanced to North American Division Championships. We are very proud!”

Southeast’s ICPC teams advanced to the North American division round after progressing through the 2020 ICPC Mid-Central USA Regional Contest, where each team completed a four-hour contest. To qualify for advancement, teams had to place among the top 150 teams in the United States and Canada.

Members of Southeast’s senior student team include team captain Alex Fogelbach of Blackwell, Missouri; team treasurer Zachary Locke of Columbia, Illinois; and Grey Ruessler of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Members of the junior student team include team vice-captain Alex Seredovych of Lviv, Ukraine; Blake Bleem of Poplar Bluff, Missouri; and Mian Wu of Fuyang, China.

The ICPC teams practice weekly to prepare for the competitions, said Dr. Robert Lowe, assistant professor of computer science at Southeast and co-adviser of the ICPC team.

“In weekly practice, we run simulated competitions and pick problems to discuss as a group,” he said. “Sometimes I give small tutorials on various techniques such as combinatorics and graph applications to help the team members understand some of the more complex problems they will encounter.”

The ICPC team members compete by writing programs to solve a series of 10 to 20 problems. An automatic judging program tests the code. Points are awarded for how many problems each team solves.

Seredovych said that much of the team’s success comes from collaboration.

“ICPC is not just about coding — it is a team competition where programmers work cooperatively to solve problems,” he said. “I enjoy working with my team because not only is it fun, but it is also a crucial experience that will be useful in the work environment. We develop algorithms, write and share code with each other. Some of us are better at math while some code faster and others can easily debug the code. Since programmers can have a variety of skills, it is an essential and challenging task to be the most cooperative team.”

For Fogelbach, participating in ICPC prepared him for coding interviews, saying “For most jobs at major software development companies, a potential employee must pass a coding interview. Usually, these interviews have almost the exact same setup as ICPC problems. Without ICPC, I wouldn’t have had the skills to pass my coding interview.”

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