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ACM Software Competition Pushes Students To Create Smarter Software

Imagine the work of an air traffic controller, having to focus on tasks while working under constantly changing conditions as well as dealing with unforeseen events. Finalists participating in 2009's Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest did just that. Competitors had just hours to figure out how to automate the scheduling task of setting up a landing order for all airplanes, given each plane's time window during which it could land, along with its current position, direction, and speed. The winner was a team from Russia, St. Petersburg State University of IT, Mechanics, and Optics.

The contest, sponsored by IBM, challenges students to solve real-world problems using open technology and advanced computing methods under a grueling five-hour deadline. It draws tens of thousands of students on 7,100 teams from universities in about 90 countries.

This year's competition, which is known as the Battle of the Brains, is just heating up, with a series of regional contests testing the skills of student computer programmers from universities around the world. Finalists will attend the World Finals of the contest, taking place in February 2010 in Harbin in Northeast China and hosted by Harbin Engineering University.

"The world faces many daunting problems such as pandemic diseases, climate change, water pollution, food safety, finite energy resources, as well as issues with urban management and mass transportation," said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive of the ICPC. "At IBM we believe we have a responsibility to help develop the next generation of technology leaders, help them to understand and tackle these complex business issues."

"The ACM-ICPC affords students the opportunity to showcase their talents and gain exposure among top recruiters," said Bill Poucher, ICPC Executive Director and Baylor University professor. Baylor hosts the competition's website. "The contest is also a forum for advancing technology in an effort to better accommodate the growing needs of the future, as expressed in IBM's Smarter Planet initiative. At the same time, the competition is a chance for students of similar interests to exchange ideas and peer educate."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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