Programming team competes in North American Championship

U-M continues its tradition of competing hard in the world of programming, with its team competing at the ACM-ICPC National Finals.

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L-R: U-M Programmers Ramchandra Apte, Aman Karunakaran, and Kailun Xu.

At Michigan, coding has been a competitive sport since the late 1980s. That’s when Prof. Larry Flanagan began coaching teams of CS students for competition in Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) collegiate programming contests.

Over the years, U-M teams have been highly successful in regional competition against strong, well-organized teams from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Waterloo, and other midwest institutions. In these competitions, teams of three students work on a single computer to solve as many programming challenges as possible in a set amount of time. 

In the Fall of 2020, U-M fielded four promising programming teams in the ACM regional competition. Of those, one team — the Victors — qualified to advance to the North America Championship stage of the 2020 International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), hosted by the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology from February 19-23, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The North American Championship is a new stage of competition that was added this year.

Composed of CSE graduate student Aman Karunakaran and undergraduate students Ramchandra Apte and Kailun Xu, the Victors team was coached by Emeritus Prof. Kevin Compton, CSE Lecturer Marcus Darden, CSE PhD student Shang-En Huang, and U-M Dearborn alumnus and former ICPC competitor Dennis Matveyev.

In competition, the Victors made a valiant effort, placing 27 in a field of 59. 

According to Karunakaran, “Although we didn’t end up advancing to World Finals, we completed five of the twelve questions and were quite close to completing a sixth, which likely would have gotten us to advance to World Finals. Overall I’m very proud of the team, since it was the first time either of my partners had ever competed in ICPC. We had a lot of help from our coaches along the way, and had a great time competing in Atlanta. This is my last year participating in ICPC, but I’m very optimistic for the performance of the team in the future.”

“Competing in the team was a fun and challenging experience,” said Apte. “I’ve learned to work together in communicating my ideas and understanding my teammate’s code.”

“It was a very competitive field, so we did not prevail,” said Compton. It was, however, an honor to make it to this level.”  

There is more to competition than what appears on the screen, and each year the U-M coaches make sure to have the teams tour points of interest in host cities and soak up the local culture. Matveyev always records the experience through a travelogue of photos.