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JMU Team Has Strong Showing at Computer Programming Competition

By Allison Gould ('10), Public Affairs

After five grueling hours of competition, Adam Smith was exhausted.

"The after-effect is similar to stepping out of the GRE's or SAT's. Physically you feel fine, but mentally, you’re exhausted,” Smith said of competing in this year's Battle of the Brains, an international computer programming competition for college students.

Smith, a senior computer science major, was a member of a JMU team that competed in a regional Battle of the Brains competition Nov. 7 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The JMU team also consisted of Clifford Ford and Ben Chang. The JMU team was one of 22 teams from George Mason University, University of Virginia, George Washington University and American University.

Teams were given five hours to solve six to eight problems. All the problems had to be solved using accepted computer-programming languages such as Java and C/C++. Teams could use any tool built into their assigned computer, like the calculator, but the Internet was disabled and electronic devices were not allowed. 

Smith has been competing in computer programming competitions since he was a freshman. This year’s regional Battle of Brains competition proved to be quite challenging. 

“Out of all the years I have been participating, this problem set has been the hardest. At most competitions, the average team solves between one to three problems. The average number of problems completed at this competition was 1.35.” 

During the competition, teams raced the clock trying to solve as many problems as possible. Interaction between the teams was not permitted. Staying focused on the problems and maintaining mental endurance were key to finishing the problems under the five-hour deadline. 

“The time flies," Smith said. "What takes five hours feels like two at most."

The JMU team finished ninth out of 22. A team from University of Virginia won the competition and could be eligible to compete in the international Battle of the Brains on Feb. 5, 2010, in Harbin, China.


Published November 2009