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KU Team Announces Winners of International Computing Contest

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

KU's ICFP 2009 Programming Contest Coordinators
Contest judges from the University of Kansas have determined winners of an international computing competition held this summer. 

For 72 hours in late June, hundreds of teams of computer scientists from around the world took part in a marathon computing contest orchestrated by KU faculty, students and staff at the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

“We tried to set up a problem that would be enjoyable for people that wanted to take part casually, but still offer enough challenge for the serious competitor. So what we did was set the problem of moving satellites in space,” said Andy Gill, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and contest director.  The ultimate goal was to control a satellite that could clear the skies of dead satellites.

Competitors could use any programming language, but had to provide workable solutions to the open-ended challenge.  KU’s contest organizers created four main tests in the contest:

  1. Change the orbit of a satellite

  2. Change the orbit of a satellite to catch a different satellite

  3. Change the orbit of a satellite to catch a satellite in a more difficult orbit

  4. Change the orbit of a satellite to meet up with 12 other satellites.

In addition, each of the four tests had four smaller problems competitors had to address. The four challenges gave the participants a sense of accomplishment as they tried to solve the larger competition, Gill said. The final challenge also incorporated added complexity in that the KU contest designers added a moon to the scenario and put one of the satellites in orbit around the moon. Several teams made it to the moon, he added.

Four competition awards will be presented on Sept. 1 during the International Conference on Functional Programming in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Now in its 12th year, the ICFP programming contest has grown into one of the largest and most respected such competitions in the world,” said Graham Hutton, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham and general chair of ICFP 2009 and vice chair of ACM Special Interest Group on Programming Languages.

About 850 teams signed up to take part in the contest, with more than 300 of those submitting solutions, Gill said.  But the teams were extremely prolific.  All told, more than 8,000 solutions to the various tests and problems appeared before the eyes of the KU volunteers in the Computer Systems Design Laboratory.

Winners are:

First place

– shinh, an individual entry from Japan

Second place

– THIRTEEN, Ukraine

Judges prize

(recognizing talent at the judges’ discretion) – when I was 4 years old I was maimed by a giant pig, a team of engineers and interns from facebook.com

Lightning round

(honoring the best submission after 24 hours) – jabber.ru, an individual entry from Ukraine.

“The ICFP Programming Contest has a tradition of inspiring creativity and prodigious effort from both the people who run it and the people who enter it,” said Philip Wadler, professor at University of Edinburgh, and chair of ACM SIGPLAN. 

Although the KU organizers didn’t get much sleep during the three-day contest, hosting the event proved valuable, Gill said.

The contest — which is sponsored by ACM SIGPLAN and often hosted by institutions considered heavy hitters in the computing world — went far to raise the profile of programming at KU. In addition, the team created a new programming language to facilitate on-the-fly evaluation of the contest entries.

“It was actually pushing the frontier of new computer languages,” Gill said.  “It was invisible to everyone else. They just saw that it worked so it really was a good test of what we thought would be useful. No one has asked ‘How did you generate this?’”


The KU organizers of the 2009 Programming Contest of the International Conference on Functional Programming

  • Megan Peck, doctoral student

  • Wesley Peck, doctoral student

  • Mark Snyder, doctoral student

  • Nicolas Frisby, doctoral student

  • Michael Jantz, master’s student

  • Garrin Kimmell, postdoctoral research assistant and contest co-chair

  • Ed Komp, research engineer

  • Kevin Matlage, master’s student

  • Andy Gill, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science

  • Brett Werling, master’s student

  • Tristan Bull, master’s student

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