Harvey Mudd College
ACM Programming Contest Introduction


What is the ACM programming contest?

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) sponsors a yearly programming contest, recently with the sponsorship of IBM. The contest is both well-known and highly regarded: last year over 6000 teams competed from more than 100 nations competed at the regional levels. About one hundred of these went on to the international finals - for example, those were held in Harbin, China in 2010 and Orlando, FL in 2011 when HMC participated.

The regional contest itself is typically held in November, with the finals in March. Teams of three students use C, C++, or Java to solve six to eight problems within five hours. One machine is provided to each team, leaving one or two team members free to work out an approach. Often, deciding which problems to attack first is the most important skill in the contest. The problems test the identification of underlying algorithms as much as programming savvy and speed.

How is Harvey Mudd involved?

Harvey Mudd has regularly sent three or four teams to the Southern California regional competition. Harvey Mudd has done quite well at the regional level, with its top team

  • placing 8th in 2016-2017
  • placing 7th in 2015-2016
  • placing 8th in 2014-2015
  • placing 9th in 2013-2014
  • placing 6th in 2012-2013
  • placing 4th in 2011-2012
  • placing 1st in 2010-2011
  • placing 1st in 2009-2010
  • placing 6th in 2008-2009
  • placing 4th in 2007-2008
  • placing 4th in 2006-2007
  • placing 2nd in 2005-2006
  • placing 3rd in 2004-2005
  • placing 2nd in 2003-2004
  • placing 6th in 2002-2003
  • placing 4th in 2001-2002
  • placing 5th in 2000-2001
  • placing 13th in 1999-2000
  • placing 1st in 1998-1999
  • placing 1st in 1997-1998
  • placing 1st in 1996-1997
  • placing 4th in 1995-1996

Each year that one of Mudd's teams has placed first, it has gone on to represent the college at the international finals. In 2010, the team of Anak Yodpinyanee, Daniel Fielder, and Stuart Pernsteiner represented HMC at the ACM ICPC international finals in Harbin, China, where they placed 64th out of 104 participating teams - which was great! They represented So CA at the World Finals again in 2011 in Orlando, Florida, again solving three problems, this time at 72nd place out of 105 teams.

In 1997, Harvey Mudd's team of Brian Carnes, Brian Johnson, Kevin Watkins, and Dominic Mazzoni (coached by Prof. Keller) won the international finals -- in fact, Harvey Mudd is the only undergraduate institution ever to have won the contest, joining universities such as MIT, Caltech, Harvard, Waterloo, the University of St. Petersburg, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and many others.

How do I get involved?

Anyone at Mudd from any major is welcome to represent the school at the regional contest. Because we are limited to sending three teams, however, we hold a preliminary contest in late October. The top three teams then go on to the regionals.

The most common way to get involved in the ACM contest is to take the one-credit Programming Practicum course offered by the Computer Science Department. The course, nicknamed ACM, meets Tuesdays from 4:15 to 5:30 in Beckman B105 and Beckman 126. Each meeting consists of a short discussion of some programming or algorithmic topic. The balance of the class is used to work on designing and coding solutions to ACM-type problems. While the class does use the ACM as motivation for its topics and problems, it is open to anyone who would like additional practice programming.

Resources

Here are a number of links about the contest you may find useful.