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March 12, 2003

Media Contact:
   Doug Ramsey, (858) 822-5825


"Battle of the Brains"

San Diego, March 12, 2003 -- Three University of California, San Diego (UCSD) students will be in Beverly Hills March 22-25 to compete in the world finals of the premier competition for college computer programmers. The 27th Annual ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) International Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by IBM (, drew more than 23,000 college participants (3,850 teams) from 68 countries on six continents during its preliminary rounds.

Having competed successfully in the Southern California semi-finals, three students in the Jacobs School of Engineering's Computer Science and Engineering Department are hoping for a strong finish at the world finals. 'Team UCSD Scissors' is made up of two juniors, Nick Butko and Alex Simma, and second-year graduate student John Rapp. This marks the fourth consecutive year that a Jacobs School team has advanced and competed in the ACM World Finals. Both Butko and Simma came to UCSD as Jacobs Scholars -- recipients of full four-year scholarships that cover all their living costs and tuition. "We have the talent to place among the top ten teams this year," says Brad Calder, the Associate Professor who has coached UCSD teams for the competition since Fall 1999. "Our team has been training regularly since the regional finals last fall, including full-scale dry runs over several weekends, on top of regular weekly meetings to discuss strategy."

The 'battle of the brains' pits teams of three university students against a semester's worth of real world computer science problems, with a grueling five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of algorithms. Still others are simply too hard to solve except, of course, for the world's best. The team that solves the most problems correctly with the fewest attempts in the least amount of time emerges as the international champion.

IBM is the sole sponsor of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals and primary sponsor of the worldwide Regional contests since 1997. During that time, participation has quadrupled. IBM's successful commitment is part of a company-wide effort to advance the next generation of computer talent.

The UCSD team is getting financial support for its travel arrangements from The Dini Group (, which also sponsored the intra-mural tournament last fall.

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