Three Trinity Computer Science Students Outshine Competition

“Gold Team” solved Five of Seven Problems and vaulted to Regionals

HARTFORD, CT, November 20, 2012 – A team of Trinity sophomores finished in third place in the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) at Western New England University, propelling them into the Northeast Regional Contest at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) earlier this month, where they snagged an honorable mention.

From left to right: Takunari Miyazaki​, associate professor of computer science; Chloe Hirschowitz '15; Philip Cho '15; and Jiajia Zhao '15. 

​This year’s event marks the 37th annual competition, which is sponsored by IBM and hosted by St. Petersburg National Research University in Russia. According to ACM, “the contest fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure. Quite simply, it is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest in the world.”

The competition consists of three levels: the local contests in which schools select teams to represent them from more than 300,000 students worldwide; the regional contests featuring 25,000 contestants; and the world finals, where 115 teams will compete for awards, prizes and, according to ACM, “bragging rights.”

In the Northeast Regional Preliminary Competition, Trinity’s Gold Team, consisting of Philip Cho of Seattle, WA; Chloe Hirschowitz of New York City; and Jiajia Zhao of Beijing solved five of seven problems, besting 15 other teams to make it to the next round. In the Regional Final at RIT, where teams from the United States and Canada participated, the competition was much stiffer. The winning team, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will compete in St. Petersburg in mid-2013.

In placing third in the first round, “Trinity [returned] to the Regional Final for the first time in more than 10 years, and this is by far the best Trinity team in my time at Trinity,” said Takunari Miyazaki, associate professor of computer science. “Not only are they talented, but also the most committed and well-practiced team I have had.” 

All three students are computer science majors, and two are endowed scholars. Cho is the recipient of the Mathematics Scholarship and Zhao is the recipient of the Jacob W. Edwards Memorial Scholarship.

Miyazaki, a member of the Trinity faculty since 2001, called the students’ third-place finish a “great achievement,” noting that the trio placed ahead of teams from Middlebury, Hamilton, and Skidmore colleges, to name a few. The schools that finished No. 1 and 2 were from the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, respectively.

Cho noted that the students were required to solve the seven problems in five hours, continuously and without a break. Hence, part of the challenge was managing the clock. Each team was allowed to use one computer, and the Trinity trio chose to use Java as its programming language.

Hirschowitz explained that in the first competition, the seven problems grew progressively harder but in the second round at RIT, all of the problems were difficult.

Undaunted by their honorable mention finish at RIT, all three students said they would like to stay together as a team and intend to start practicing almost immediately.

“We’re going to keep practicing throughout the year,” said Zhao. She estimated that they practice, on average, twice a week and sometimes on weekends. Zhao said their programming proficiency is helpful in terms of their coursework. 

The ACM-ICPC had its genesis in a competition held at Texas A&M University in 1970 hosted by the Alpha Chapter of the UPE Computer Science Honor Society.  The idea gained popularity and evolved into a multi-tier competition with the first finals held at the ACM Computer Science Conference in 1977. Headquartered at Baylor University since 1989, the contest has expanded into a global network of universities hosting regional competitions that culminate in the World Finals.

This year, ICPC participation included students and faculty from more than 2,200 higher education institutions from 85 countries on six continents.

For more information about the contest, please visit:​.