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January 1999



Programming Team Advances to World Finals

David Mayhew (CpE, '97), a master's student in computer engineering, is leading the Virginia Tech programming team to the international Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)competition in the Netherlands this April.

The team won first place in the regional competition in November, beating out the other 150 teams that competed. A second Tech team placed third and two other teams placed 13th and 53rd.

The intercollegiate competition is the largest programming competition in the world. Last year Tech placed second in the U.S. at the world finals - behind MIT, and 11th overall.

"The Team to Beat"

Tech has a reputation within the region as being the school to beat, according to Sallie Henry (CS), the team's coach and the Mid-Atlantic Region director. "We have won the region for the last 10 years," she said. "When you get first place from the ACM, you attract the top undergraduate and graduate students to your program."

The competition is great experience for the students, and the cultural exchange is priceless, she said. "Our students at the world competition get to meet and work with top programmers from all over the world. They get to see how good they really are. And sometimes it's good to see that they are not as good as somebody else.
"Employers are very hot on this competition. I'm called and emailed all time from companies wanting the names of students on our first team."

Every year in September, Henry has a Virginia Tech competition, from which she forms three or four teams. "Anybody can try out," she said. Two other CpE students, Zack Swain ('00), Rob Clancy ('98) were placed on teams that competed at the regional level.

Henry mixes computer science students with computer engineers, electrical engineers, and mathematics and physics majors. In addition to Mayhew, the team going to the world finals includes Tim Terriberry (CS/Math, '01), Albert Lee (CS/Math/Physics, '00), and Chad Windgrave (CS, '99) who serves as assistant coach/alternate.

"It's good to have a mix of majors on the teams," Mayhew said. "We engineers tend to have a better idea of how to solve the more engineering-type problems. The computer science students usually know more about graph theory and complex algorithm problems."

After the teams are formed, they practice for five hours every Saturday morning during the fall and spring semesters.

Even before he goes to the world finals, Mayhew believes he has gained much from the competition. "I've become a better and faster programmer," he said. "It's given me an edge. I have more confidence and experience. After seeing so many problems in training, I find it easier to see software problems and their solutions."
This experience has helped him in his engineering work. "I've recently become involved in the autonomous vehicle project. There are many coding problems involved that I'm able to solve. "Most of all, it's the fun, and the pride," he said.

For more information on the Virginia Tech Programming Team, please visit http://www.acm.vt.edu/index.html.

The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Tech

Last Updated, May 9, 1999
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