ECU computer science students participate in international contest

Six students from the Department of Computer Science participated in the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Mid-Atlantic USA Regional, going up against 74 teams from 32 universities in five states.

It marked the first time ECU had sent teams to the ICPC since 2012.

“At first, I was extremely nervous,” sophomore Dontrez Hobbs said of the competition. “I had a constant feed of negative thoughts flowing through my mind that I would be the weak link in my team since this was my first programming competition. Though once the competition began, all of it went away and I quickly became relaxed and focus.”

Hobbs teamed with Benjamin Johnson and Arturo Calderon on the ECU purple team, while Andrew Edwards, Gabrielle Stein and Richard Herget made up the gold team. As part of the competition, the teams had to develop computer language code to solve problems.

“The first challenge that I felt many groups faced was just understanding what the problem was asking,” Hobbs said. “Each problem was a little ambiguous in its wording, so you would have to reread it multiple times to understand it. The second challenge was coming up with code that not only provides the correct results, but is also efficient and can be run within a certain time frame. Because of these challenges, most groups were only able to solve just one problem within the six-hour time frame.”

I learned that programming can be very tedious but very rewarding.
- Dontrez Hobbs, computer science student

Hobbs said that one of the biggest lessons he took from the competition was the need for good teamwork.

“Working as a team during this competition was essential,” he said. “While one of us worked on programming, the other two would focus on pseudo-code, read the problems until they understood them, then explain it to the others and assist with ideas for a solution to a problem.”

He said the competition provided valuable lessons.

“I learned that programming can be very tedious but very rewarding,” Hobbs said. “You have to be very patient and slow your thinking down or else you can easily confuse yourself by trying to think so far ahead when coming up with code for a problem. Also, don’t give up if your solution does not work the first run. You just have to keep going and build on what you have that you know works.”

Overall, Hobbs said he enjoyed the event.

“The competition was a lot of fun for me,” he said. “Even though we didn’t move on to the next rounds, it was fun to just be in a competitive environment with other computer science students from different schools. This is something that I plan on doing again because of how much fun it was.”

Teaching instructor Xiaoli Mao helped prepare the students for the event.

“I believe it is a great reboot of ECU’s ICPC competition, and we will continue to work with students for future competitions,” she said.

More information on ECU’s computer science program is available online.