Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Little Truly Offensive Bragging (On Behalf of Harvard CS)

So which US school was the only one in the top ten for the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest this year?

No, not MIT, Princeton, or Carnegie Mellon (tied for 18th), nor Stanford (good effort!, tied for 13th) - but Harvard, at number 7.  (Results here.

Congratulation to our team Spencer Liang, Alex Zhai, and Neal Wu.  (Neal has also been busy as a TF for CS 124 this year...) 

Of course, also congratulations to the many other teams, in particular the top two (who both solved 9 of the problems;  the winners won on time):

St. Petersburg State University of IT, Mechanics and Optics
University of Warsaw


Anonymous said...

Could the fact that US top schools do poorly in this competition compared to the Russians or Chinese imply that performance in this competition is pretty much irrelevant to the academic level of universities?

Anonymous said...

Could the fact that every year, when ICPC results are announced, there is always bitter comments US chauvinists imply that the US could spend a little work on improving performance in these competitions?

Anonymous said...

At least here at MIT, many of the top students (e.g. former IOI contestants) do not bother to even take the team selection test. We have things that we think are more worthwhile to do than programming 20+ hours (just) for fame.

Anonymous said...

I'm far from convinced that the ICPC contest model helps students to become good software engineers.

It can develop certain programming skills very well, of course. But I think it tends to build up "programming tricks fast for use-once code".

That's really the opposite of what important for good software development: maintainable, extensible software that it is actually usable in the real world.

Choosing between a student who had successful experiences working with "real code" over time and one who has success in programming contests, I'd absolutely prefer the former. (The latter often have to unlearn a lot, in my experience.)

Of course, some students do both, which is great.

Re other comments: I think the some of the national variation reflects differences in access to opportunities for real software development experience, rather than quality of education or skill.

But, of course, best wishes to the Harvard team and others on their accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Most intelligent university students realize that they have better things to do with their time than participate in programming contests.

Harry Lewis said...

Yeah, we never get anybody but losers like Robert Tappan Morris, Craig Silverstein, and Tony Hsieh on our prizewinning teams ;)

Anonymous said...

Great comments.
In the same kids who fail to go to do PhD at MIT can say:
"Most intelligent university students realize that they have better things to do with their time than to do well to go to MIT."
"We have things that we think are more worthwhile to do than study Mathis/CS 20+ hours."

ICPC contest is a great experience, but not for all. Same is with IOI and IMO. But please show some respects for those who did well in any of those activities.