Assistant Professor of computer science Isaac Gang did not expect any freshmen to try out for the computer science team. So he was surprised when three of them won the campus wide competition and even more surprised when they finished 23rd in the International Computer Programming Competition regional event.
Freshmen computer science majors Riley Massey, Matt Liberty and Garrett Garbee made up the team that tied for 1st in the script contest at Baylor University Oct. 20. They placed 23rd out of a 58-team field in the general competition, the best finish by a team from the university.
“This is the first time a group at UMHB solved that many problems at that contest so that was historic,” Gang said. “I trusted that they would do well, but I didn’t think they would be able to solve six problems in the script contest and two problems in the general contest.”
At the competition sponsored by IBM, the teams recieved eight computer programming problems to solve. Teams spent up to five hours working and reworking solutions to the programs.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect going into it,” Massey said. “Once we got there, it was basically you could solve the problem if you thought it was right. You could submit it to the judges, and they would return a yes or no. We turned in one problem four times until we got it right.”
Preparation for the event is difficult because of the often wacky nature of the problems. Competitors had a practice round the day before the actual event, and for the freshmen every ounce of experience was valuable.
“We did check last year’s problems, but they were completely different (from this year),” Garbee said. “I think I provided my brain to help come up with solutions. They (Massey and Liberty) brought the programming knowledge.”
As freshmen, stepping into a room full of competing students from larger schools all across the state was at first daunting for the trio. However, they soon forgot about the opposition and began to systematically work on writing programs.
“I thought it was intimidating because we had never gone before,” Massey said. “We’re all freshmen and people competing were generally seniors or graduates, so it was kind of intimidating. Once we got there and started doing it, that kind of went away, and we were just solving problems.”
Gang is glad that a group of freshmen did so well because now they have three more years to improve on this year’s success.
“They’re very excited about next year,” Gang said. “I’m excited for the kids because they are freshmen.”
After they won the campus competition, Gang realized how dedicated the trio was to competing in the event.
Gang said, “Hopefully they can improve on this year’s standing.”