11/19/07

FAILURE DOES NOT COMPUTE
Moravian students take top honors in a top computing contest.

Get with the program: Moravian computers take first place.

Though they were up against larger schools and teams with graduate students, a team of Moravian computer science majors placed first at the Association of Computing Machinery Mid-Atlantic Programming Contest, held at Wilkes College on October 27. The winning team, consisting of Tim Mills '09, Wes Moser '08, and Scott Weaver '08, also placed 8th in the region, ahead of students from Virginia Tech, Duke, Johns Hopkins and over 130 other institutions competing at other mid-Atlantic sites. This made Moravian the only liberal arts school in the region's top 20 positions, and the only school without a graduate program among the top 10. It's the second time in the past three years that a Moravian team placed first at Wilkes, and the fifth straight year that Moravians placed in the top five  A second team of Moravian students--Chris Beildelman '08, Joe Borda '09, and  Jamie Long '09 placed 6th at Wilkes--putting them at number 46 in regional rankings.  Also competing for Moravian were Brandon Heyer '08 and Chris Schilling '08.

"I am extremely proud of the hard work of these students in preparing for this contest," says Ben Coleman, assistant professor of computer science. The weekly practice sessions he's been holding with the students not only prep them for the contest, he says, they're added education in the computer science discipline. "It's a chance to model good programming skills," he says. At the contest, teams are given eight problems to work on, requiring them to create programs to do anything from transpose musical notes into a different key to find a path through a maze. Teams are scored by the number of problems they solve and the time takes them to solve them. Deciding which challenges to tackle, and how to go about solving them, are important steps in getting to a solution. Teamwork becomes critical, which echoes the situation for programmers in the real-world. "The modern programming environment is team-based," professor Coleman says. "That means asking questions about how we break things up, so we can all work simultaneously towards the end goal." Besides a trophy and a learning experience, success in the contest carries a measure of prestige in the computing world. "Prospective employers recognize that participation demonstrates team-work and problem-solving abilities," notes professor Coleman. "Students have told me that that their involvement was a contributing factor in successful job interviews."