Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Incredible Competition: World-Class Programming, Part II

Left to right: Micah Shennum, Terry Penner, and Daniel Rothfus
When we tell our students a LeTourneau education will take them places, we mean it. Just ask Micah Shennum, Terry Penner and Daniel Rothfus. These three competitive programmers recently returned from a four-day stint in St. Petersburg, Russia, where they competed in the world finals of the International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC).

The team took on heavy competition from 120 university teams from across the globe, each of which already earned 1st place in its respective regional competition. Big-name competitors included St. Petersburg National Research University, Carnegie Mellon, the Beijing Institute of Technology, Cairo University and MIT, to name a few.

Since the ICPC does not distinguish between schools with undergraduate and graduate programs, the LETU team faced the even bigger challenge of going up against teams with graduate student members. Even against such odds, the LETU team earned an honorable mention alongside teams from schools like the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

When asked about their favorite experience during their time in St. Petersburg, each team member said they most enjoyed hearing a presentation from Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of the C++ programming language.

"He just looked like a normal college professor, but then I would realize he is the man who created the language that I use every day, and my stomach would do a bit of a flip," said Shennum.

But what the team took away from the competition was more than a few cool experiences and a bullet point on a resume.

A little sightseeing before heading home
"If I were to say what the most important thing that I learned was," said Penner, "it was the lesson of how important it is to focus your energy on the battles that you can win. If you're not understanding something, take a break from it. Go find something else to work on that you can understand. Maybe you'll understand it later; maybe you won't. But at least you will be making progress in some area, rather than wasting time running up against a wall."

And at an international competition, the guys couldn't help but do a little networking.

"This competition broadened the scope of my peers. I am looking forward to the chance of working with some of these guys on real-life problems, and I definitely want to see what they are doing in the future," said Rothfus.

For more "behind the scenes" of the competition, check out Terry Penner's blog, which includes his personal updates from the competition.

For the LETU team members, skip ahead to 1:02

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