Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Thursday, June 20, 2024 — Houston, TX

Rice Wins ACM-ICPC Contest

By Jieya Wen     10/27/14 2:27pm

A team of three Rice University students entitled Rice Gray won first place at the South Central USA regionals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest on Oct. 4. The winners are Jose Vera-Garza, a Lovett College sophomore, Philip Taffet, a Duncan College sophomore, and Nick Merritt, a Martel College junior.

“The contest is five hours,” John Greiner (Hanszen ’89), the coach of the Rice ICPC teams, said. “Each team has three people. Each team got one computer and the same nine problems to solve. [Winning the Contest depends on] how many problems you solve by writing a computer program that works successfully within the time allowed. Tiebreaker is based upon the time that was used.”

Rice students attended the regional competition that includes competitors from three states: Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The winners of the regionals will compete at the World Finals May 16-21, 2015 in Marrakech, Morocco.

There are thousands of teams participating in the regional level,” Greiner, a lecturer for the Rice computer science department, said. “We've sent five teams this year to regionals. One of our teams took first place, solving five problems. This year's problems were a bit harder and trickier than that recent past.”

The winning students said they were surprised to have won the competition because they only prepared for a short time and had a slow start during the competition, according to Vera-Garza. They solved their fifth problem with only three minutes left.

“Due to scheduling, [the competition] had to be moved a month earlier than the normal years, so we didn't have much time to prepare,” Vera-Garza said. “[Taffet] and I began practicing a month before the competition started. We got together once a week, sometimes twice a week, to do problems.”

Taffet said because questions at this year’s competition are harder than the past ones and the three students only had one computer, the team did not do very well at the beginning of the contest.

“We were hoping to solve seven questions so we were very surprised that we won,” Taffet said. “We just had a bad day. We struggled with a lot of easy questions and other people had a bad day too. We ended up winning by [submitting two fewer wrong answers than the other team], very close.”

Meritt joined the team two weeks before the contest. The original third member of the team is a first-year Ph.D. student and had participated in a different regional ICPC contest for the same world final, Vera-Garza said.

Originally, when Dr. Greiner made the team, our third teammate had competed before in a different regional for the same world finals, so he couldn't compete,” Vera-Garza said. “The contest doesn't allow you to compete in several regionals so that you have multiple chances to get into world finals.

Merritt said he is surprised and happy about winning the contest.

“It's an amazing opportunity, but I didn't find out about the contest and start preparing until a week or two weeks before, so I was incredibly lucky to be placed in a team with these two amazing guys who were way more prepared,” Merritt said. “It was not what I was expecting.”

Greiner said to prepare for the world competition in May, the team will practice more problems from past world finals and learn computer science related mathematics, as well as algorithms.

“They will also need to prepare materials that they can use during the world finals,” Greiner said. “They get to take a small amount of printed materials into the competition with them as hints.”

More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 6/5/24 7:37pm
NOD permanently canceled, Rice strips away-decades old campus tradition

After 50 years of decadence, Wiess College’s infamous underwear party is no more.  Born in the early 1970s after a group of Wiess students poured all their alcohol into a bathtub — creating a brew “so potent it removed the varnish” — Night of Decadence has spent years in the national eye. Allegedly recognized as one of Playboy’s top college parties in the nation, NOD has also been subject to mounting scrutiny over alcohol use and an “explicitly dangerous and sexual atmosphere.” Rice has now permanently canceled the public, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Wiess magister Flavio Cunha announced in a message to campus June 5.

NEWS 5/24/24 11:48am
Rice Mutual Aid partners with student organizations to fundraise for Gaza

Rice Mutual Aid launched a fundraising campaign for Gaza on May 13 in partnership with 15 other student organizations at Rice, including Rice Students for Justice in Palestine, Rice Pride, the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice and the Rice Muslim Student Association. RMA will direct donations towards American Near East Refugee Aid, a non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian aid and emergency relief in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. A day after its launch, the campaign raised over $2,000 according to RMA’s Instagram.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.