Computing Applications

Gaming and Touring Prep Students For Programming Contest

ACM-ICPC logo, Mount Rushmore

Students and coaches explored local attractions, played competitive games, and attended the Competitive Learning Symposium on Sunday (May 21) in advance of the 2017 ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition. Attractions in South Dakota's Black Hills include Mount Rushmore, Rapid City's Walking Tour, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology's Museum of Geology. In the evening, students held makeshift ping pong tournaments and battled it out in multiplayer video games. Coaches sat in on the CLI Symposium, a two-day event with three speakers per day. The Symposium allows coaches to meet other coaches, share tips with new coaches, and spread ideas on ways to improve.

The first speaker Sunday was Donna Furon, a volunteer with the ICPC's Southern California Region. She spoke of how the region started holding the "CLI Light" symposium during five-hour regional competitions so that coaches would have something to do other than grade papers; coaches are not allowed in the tournament area. Furon encouraged other regional competitions to consider hosting their own small CLI symposium. 

The symposia are fairly easy to organize, as they involve hardly any additional cost and the main concern is in finding speakers. They benefit both coaches, who have an opportunity to network and share ideas, and sponsors, who like to meet and speak with coaches.

"The sponsors that we have love to get in front of the coaches," Furon says. "In fact, one of our sponsors actually recruited one of our coaches."

They also give newer coaches opportunity to learn from more experienced coaches.

"Our coaches have gotten to know each other and they have formed relationships," Furon says. There was a coach who had never been to this event before. We matched up the type of institution" — whether a two-year, four-year, or graduate program — "with a coach who had some experience in that institution and asked them, 'Hey could you talk to this person?' and it gave the incoming coach a little idea of what is going on."

Furon encouraged coaches to create their own CLI Light Symposium to reap the sponsorship and networking benefits. 

Other speakers included Anup Kalbalia, who described CodeChef's role in India's growing competitive programming environment. CodeChef, a popular Indian competitive programming website, has hosted over 1,500 contests in the last eight years, and has worked tirelessly to promote competitive programming within India. It studies what winning programming teams and countries are doing right, has started training programs in secondary school, offers cash incentives to winners, and opened up programming competitions to secondary school students.

Kelsey Sinclair, a student at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, is on assignment for the BLOG@CACM.

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