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Yan-Bin Jia, Computer Science, (515) 294-2577
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- A team of three Iowa State University students will match wits with some of the brightest computer programmers in the world when they compete in the 27th Annual World Finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, March 23-25, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The Iowa State team -- Brett Kail, a junior in computer science from Farnhamville, Iowa; Joshua Woods, a sophomore in computer science also from Farnhamville, and Josh Carlson, Oregon, Ill., who graduated in December with a degree in computer science -- is one of 68 teams that reached the final stage of competition.

Nearly 3,100 teams from 68 countries competed in preliminary rounds of the competition. The final round of competition will result in one team being crowned as world leader in computer coding.

"This group represents the best of college programmers in the world," said Yan-Bin Jia, an assistant professor of computer science and coach of the Iowa State team.

Jia said the main competition, where teams will work to solve up to nine problems will take place on March 25. From 8:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., the 68 teams will work to write programs that solve problems, such as figuring out the optimal placements of inflatable balloons in a box with the least amount of free space; developing the shortest encoding that is not uniquely decodable; or determining the most economical way to wire several islands with communications cable.

According to Jia, contest problems are roughly 30 percent programming and 70 percent problem solving. Teammates will gauge the difficulty of the problems they face, design algorithms to solve these problems and implement their solutions in code. The team that solves the most problems correctly in the least amount of time will become international champion. The top 12 teams will be awarded medals and cash prizes.

The Iowa State students will compete with students from U.S. universities like Carnegie Mellon, University of California-Berkeley, Cornell and the California Institute of Technology. International schools represented include Albert Einstein University (Germany), Moscow State University (Russia), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) and American University (Egypt).

The competition is organized by the Association for Computing Machinery, a computer industry trade organization, and sponsored by IBM. Last year's gold medal winners were (in order of finish): Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; and University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada).

Another Iowa State University team from the computer science department went to the world finals twice. The team tied for 22nd place in 2000 and tied for 29th place in 2001.


Editors: For more information on the computer programmers world finals go to

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