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November 19, 2001

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   Doug Ramsey, (858) 822-5825 or

UCSD Students Take Top Prize In Southwest U.S. Computer Programming Finals

CSE Programmers-Paper Team
CSE Programmers (from left to right): Coach Brad Calder with Jeremy Lau, Stefan Schoenmackers and Matthew Fedder.  Photo by coach Greg Hamerly.

A team of three computer science students from the University of California, San Diego took first prize at the annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Southern California Region Programming Contest. A second UCSD team took third place. The competition took place Saturday, Nov. 10, at Riverside Community College in Riverside, CA, and the winning team will go on to represent the region in the 26th Annual ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals sponsored by IBM next March 23 in Honolulu, HI. (For details, go to

"This is a wonderful achievement by our undergraduates. They were competing with the best programmers from the top universities in Southern California, and they came out the best!" said Robert Conn, dean of the Irwin & Joan Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD. "Winning two of the top three spots underscores not only that the School is attracting some of the most talented students around, but also that it is helping them develop their programming and problem-solving skills so they can be the best in their field."

The winning "UCSD Paper" team consisted of undergraduates Matthew Fedder and Stefan Schoenmackers, and graduate student Jeremy Lau, all from UCSD's Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department. (The department's other entries were dubbed UCSD Rock and UCSD Scissors; see picture.) "One of the reasons they succeeded so well was because they really worked and cooperated as a team," said Brad Calder, associate professor of computer science and engineering at the Jacobs School and the coach/faculty advisor of all three teams fielded by UCSD. "This is essential to success because each team is given only one computer which they must share to solve the six problems."

CSE Programmers-All Teams
CSE Programmers (from left to right): Tadayoshi Kohno (Rock), Lev Landa (Scissors), coach John Bellardo, John Rapp (Scissors), coaches Geoff Voelker and Brad Calder, Matthew Landis and Scott O'Neil (Rock), Matthew Fedder and Jeremy Lau (Paper), Aleksandr Simma (Scissors) and Stefan Schoenmackers (Paper).  Photo by coach Greg Hamerly.

On Saturday, the UCSD teams went up against 54 teams from 21 universities -- including groups fielded by previous winners of the competition, such as Caltech and Harvey Mudd College. Each team (consisting of at least two undergraduates) was given one computer and six problems to solve in five hours. UCSD Paper was the only team to solve five problems in the allotted time. "We were up against very tough competition," admitted team member Fedder. "Half way through the contest we were trailing, but we managed to come from behind and secure the victory by solving the 5th problem in the just the last ten minutes." A Caltech team edged out UCSD Scissors for second place, each solving four of the problems

"Taking both 1st and 3rd place in this event really demonstrates the quality of our students and our program," added Calder, who went on to say that "the contest is just as much about problem solving under pressure as it is about programming."

Calder organized an intra-UCSD competition sponsored by The Dini Group earlier in the fall ( to select the members of each UCSD team from a field of approximately 60 contestants. The three teams then competed against each other in two practice rounds, using problems and solutions supplied by graduate students (and judges) John Bellardo and Greg Hamerly, as well as Don Yang, a recent CSE graduate -- all participants in previous programming contests. "John Bellardo sets up and runs the judging program used during the contests at UCSD," said Calder. "Without his help, we would neither be able to run the UCSD contest nor the practice contests."   Additional support and coaching was provided by CSE faculty members Geoff Voelker and Rick Ord.

The final scores of the 2001 ACM Southern California Region Programming Contest are at

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