Computer Science Students Finish Fifth in Nation in World Finals of ‘Battle of the Brains’

Date: 05-31-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Moaty Fayek
Department of Computer Science

Three California State University, Chico computer science students competed against 104 other top computing teams from around the world in the “Battle of the Brains” held in Orlando May 27–31. They finished 59th among international competitors and fifth among 18 U.S. teams in the IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC).

"The 105 teams in the competition were chosen from a field of 8,305 teams from 2,070 universities in 88 countries competing on six continents," said Moaty Fayek, Computer Science chair and the team advisor. "CSU, Chico's ACM team's ranking of 59 puts them amongst the top 1 percent in the world. Those kids achieved the impossible."

CSU, Chico’s team was the first-place team in the Pacific Northwest Region, besting other top regional finalists Stanford University, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Professor Moaty Fayek accompanied team members David Stolp, Katherine Gabales and Abhishek Iyer, and reserve member Jennifer Coryell to Orlando. Ryan Feenstra, president of the CSU, Chico student ACM chapter, also made the trip.

The top team in the world was from Zhejiang University in China. The participating teams were challenged to solve 11 extremely difficult computer-programming problems in only five hours. The students from Zhejiang University, masters of both speed and skill, solved eight problems in the five hours.

The team from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor finished in second place, the only U.S. team in the top 12. Other countries represented in the top 12 were a second university from China, five universities in Russia, and one university each from Germany, the Ukraine, Poland and Canada.

“Some of those teams actually have full-time professional coaches that coach their teams year-round,” said Fayek. “This is a luxury that we cannot afford.”

Overall, 18 universities from the United States competed in the ACM World Finals. CSU, Chico was in fifth place right behind the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Princeton University. Chico was ahead of 13 other U.S. universities, including the University of Miami, University of Oklahoma, University of Chicago, Duke University, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“We were among the elite and we were ahead of some very big-name universities,” said Fayek.

In a May 31 newswire release from ICPC, contest Executive Director Bill Poucher from Baylor University said, “The ICPC is not just an international computer contest; it’s a meeting place for some of the smartest brains in the world to come together and harness their talents in an effort to make life better for people everywhere.”

In addition to participating in the competition, the students attending the ACM event were introduced to the latest technology and advanced computing methods, including experiencing high-profile technologies from IBM, such as analytics and cloud computing.

The Chico team won their place in the world finals by finishing first in the November 2010 Pacific Northwest Programming Contest, besting 74 other teams representing some of the top western universities in North America, including Simon Fraser, Stanford University and UC, Berkeley, who each had three teams.

The Chico team received funding for their travel to Florida from IBM as the event sponsor, from the CSU, Chico IRA Exemplary Performance Funds, and from various private donations.