Computer Contests
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Computer Programming Contests

In high school, I thoroughly enjoyed competing in computer programming contests. I got my first exposure to a computer contest toward the end of 9th grade when I was asked by a 10th grader to be partners with him as his typist in a state-wide programming contest. Although I did not know anything about computers or programming at the time, I had taken a year of typing on actual typewriters, so he knew that I was a quick typist. The contest did not go as well as he had hoped, partly because it was more difficult than expected for me to grasp my partner's hand-written notes or verbiage containing computer language and syntax that needed to be typed into the computer. Although we did not win anything that day, I was hooked on the idea of solving problems (often math oriented) with a computer by writing programs. Thus, I enrolled in a high school summer course for "Computer Math I", where I learned the Apple BASIC language and how to make the computer do things and solve problems, especially math oriented problems. I already loved mathematics, so this combination of programming and math was amazing to me. As 10th grade started, I enrolled in "Computer Math II".

For my 10th grade science fair project, I programmed the computer to graphically solve the Rubik's Cube. In 11th grade, I experienced the thrill of leading our 3-person team to a first place finish at a state-wide competition. In 12th grade, I was the team captain of the state-championship team. We had solved all 30 programming problems within the 3 hour allotted time--a feat that had never been done before or since. At the national championships for Mu Alpha Theta, my partner and I had placed 5th in the national computer programming contest.

During the next 12 years, I went on to become the author and official judge of the Florida High Schools Computing Competition. I have compiled the work into a massive book containing the 30 problems for each of the years, along with the judging criteria, BASIC solutions, and Pascal solutions. You may click the link below to see more details:

Florida High Schools Computing Competition
Problems, Judging Criteria, BASIC Solutions, Pascal Solutions
1985 - 1994
Douglas E. Woolley

Top Coder

With the exception of competing in a Southeast Regional ACM competition as a junior in college, I have not had the privilege of competing in another programming contest since high school. It's been over two decades since I graduated from USF with a B.S. in Computer Science, and it's been longer than that since I competed, primarily because I knew of no contest for people who are not in high school or college. Then one day in the middle of 2012, I was listening to the Podcast "This Developer's Life" and I heard an interview with a young post-college student who had competed in "TopCoder," which is open to anyone who is at least 13 years of age. Wow! I found an international computer contest for which I can compete, even at my age and having graduated from universities.

The competition and interest level in computer programming is much greater now than back in my competition days. The TopCoder competition is totally amazing, as it draws thousands of contestants from around the world to compete AT THE SAME TIME via the Internet. Three programming problems are given (in order of difficulty) with 75 minutes to complete them in one of four languages: Java, C++, C#, or Visual Basic. Although I've have learned Java and C++, I have more experience in Visual Basic and C#, with the latter language being my favorite and the one in which I write programs for my work at Verizon as a Web Developer.

In addition to the Algorithms competition that I have been competing in, there are other kinds of computer contests sponsored by TopCoder, many of which have prize money. See the following links for international computer competitions:

TopCoder results for Doug Woolley and competition history

Competitors are divided into rooms of 20 people, from which contestants can challenge the code of others in the room after the coding phase and prior to the system test phase. Contests normally have about 1,000 coders in each of the two divisions. Ranked 150th in the USA and 2,791st in the world (in May, 2013), attaining a rating of 1270.

SRM# Date Problem#1 Problem#2 Problem#3 Score Place in
550 7/21/2012 18:15 184.86         184.86 14 761 /1000 1007
551 8/4/2012 13:27 207.38         182.38 15 658 /1016 918
552 8/16/12 10:34 220.97         220.97 5 171 /771 994
553 8/22/12 08:13 231.19         231.19 7 174 /803 1049
554 9/1/12 15:00 199.96         199.96 10 511 /1000 1012
555 9/7/12 22:08 171.89         171.89 11 368 /890 1000
556 9/13/12 30:17 141.49         141.49 10 382 /719 959
557 10/10/12 07:50 232.76         232.76 6 492 /1220 940
558 10/19/12 17:50 186.79         186.79 2 212/ 1010 979
559 10/30/12 46:32 111.07         111.07 9 188 /493 971
560 11/10/12 8:57 228.15         228.15 17 702 /1113 897
561 11/20/12 3:05 247.05         247.05 2 157 /791 950
562 11/30/12 3:06 247.01         247.01 5 183 /842 nr
563 12/8/12 3:28* 246.32         246.32 7 155 /704 987
564 12/12/12 8:07 231.61 54:15 206.14     437.75 6 176 /927 1029
565 12/20/12 10:18 222.2 24:53 316.51     538.71 6 140 /1121 1078
566 1/12/13 6:37 237.31 54:00 0     237.31 6 322/1315 1076

* Note: The grid above only shows the earliest contests. See the links for up-to-date details.

With diligence in solving past competition problems, I hope to learn new techniques for developing algorithms and thus perform even better in the near future.

For other computer programming contests, you may visit the following external sites:

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Page was last updated on April 12, 2014