CSU, Chico News

Computer Science Students Headed for World Finals of ‘Battle of the Brains’

Date: 05-25-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Moaty Fayek
Department of Computer Science

Four California State University, Chico computer science students headed for Orlando Tuesday to compete in the World Finals of the “Battle of the Brains” this coming weekend. The IBM-sponsored International Collegiate Programming Contest, which was to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in February, was moved to Florida as a result of the popular uprising.

CSU, Chico is among 105 teams chosen from a field of 8,305 teams representing 2,070 universities in 88 countries competing on six continents. The contest requires teams of three students to attempt to solve 10 extremely difficult computer-programming problems in a race against time and other student teams. The ultimate winner goes on to claim what IBM calls “The World’s Smartest Trophy.”

In November 2010, Chico earned their place in the world finals in a hard-fought victory at the Pacific Northwest Programming Contest, besting 74 other universities. Competing universities included Stanford, Simon Fraser University, University of Washington, UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Moaty Fayek, chair of CSU, Chico’s Department of Computer Science and team advisor, said that the contest is treated almost as an Olympic sport in some countries. He said that when students from St. Petersburg, Russia, won the world title two years ago, they were feted at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.

Fayek will accompany team members David Stolp, Katherine Gabales and Abhishek Iyer, with Jennifer Coryell as a reserve member, to the world finals. In addition, the president of the student chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), Ryan Feenstra, will make the trip.

Fayek said CSU, Chico has competed in the regional contest, sponsored by ACM, since 1977 and won it once before in 1981. CSU, Chico’s Department of Computer Science is the oldest in the CSU and has had many high finishes in past years, he said.

Winning the world title will be a tall order, Fayek said, because Eastern Europe, China, Russia and other countries take the contest extremely seriously. Many of the teams from those countries have full-time coaches and other advantages, he said. Last year, Stanford, which finished at 14th, was the highest U.S. finisher in the World Finals.

The Chico team has received funding for their travel from IBM as the event sponsor and from the CSU, Chico Exemplary Performance Funds.