A team of students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is heading to the world finals in competitive computer programming. This is the fourth year in a row that a School of Mines team has qualified, and the ninth time in the program’s history.
The School of Mines team bested more than 200 other college teams from across the Midwest Canada. They qualified after a five-hour competition in which teams solve math-based problems of varying difficulties. If a team submits a solution that turns out to be wrong, they receive a 20-minute time penalty.
Paul Hinker is a computer science professor and one of the team’s faculty advisors. He explains that this year, the regional victory came down to a tie. School of Mines tied with a team from Nebraska when they both solved eight problems.
“But our team had a shorter time to solutio," says Hinker. "In other words, the amount of time it took them to solve the 8 problems plus any penalty time was less than the Nebraska time, so we ended up being first.”
Hinker says it’s extraordinary for a school of this size to qualify for the world finals four years in a row. He points to a steady line of dedicated students. Of the three current team members, Alex Iverson has attended world finals twice and Luke Videckis has gone once. Hinker says one of the team’s graduate coaches has also been to the world finals twice.
“We’ve had a nice deep bench over the last three or four years, and that’s really helped the team a lot," he says.
Hinker says the team will now participate in a rigorous independent study through School of Mines to prepare for the world competition in the spring. He says they’ll spend up to eight hours a week practicing similar problem-solving skills.
The team travels to Portugal for the final competition in April.