KU News Release

Sept. 4, 2009
Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934

KU announces winners, organizers of international computing contest

LAWRENCE — Contest judges from the University of Kansas have determined winners of an international computing competition held this summer.

For 72 hours in late June, hundreds of teams of computer scientists from around the world took part in a marathon computing contest orchestrated by KU faculty, students and staff at the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

“We tried to set up a problem that would be enjoyable for people that wanted to take part casually but still offer enough challenge for the serious competitor. So what we did was set the problem of moving satellites in space,” said Andy Gill, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and contest director.

The ultimate goal was to control a satellite that could clear the skies of dead satellites.

Competitors could use any programming language but had to provide workable solutions to the open-ended challenge. KU’s contest organizers created four main tests:

1. Change the orbit of a satellite
2. Change the orbit of a satellite to catch a different satellite
3. Change the orbit of a satellite to catch a satellite in a more difficult orbit
4. Change the orbit of a satellite to meet up with 12 other satellites

In addition, each of the four tests had four smaller problems competitors had to address. The four challenges gave the participants a sense of accomplishment as they tried to solve the larger competition, Gill said. The final challenge also incorporated added complexity in that the KU contest designers added a moon to the scenario and put one of the satellites in orbit around the moon. Several teams made it to the moon, he added.

Four competition awards were presented Sept. 1 during the International Conference on Functional Programming in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Now in its 12th year, the ICFP programming contest has grown into one of the largest and most respected such competitions in the world,” said Graham Hutton, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham and general chair of ICFP 2009 and vice chair of ACM Special Interest Group on Programming Languages.

About 850 teams signed up to take part in the contest, with more than 300 of those submitting solutions, Gill said. All told, more than 8,000 solutions to the various tests and problems appeared before the eyes of the KU volunteers in the Computer Systems Design Laboratory.

Winners are:

First place – shinh, an individual entry from Japan
Second place – THIRTEEN
Judges prize (recognizing talent at the judges’ discretion) – when I was 4 years old I was maimed by a giant pig, a team of engineers and interns from facebook.com
Lightning round (honoring the best submission after 24 hours) – jabber.ru, an individual entry from Ukraine

“The ICFP Programming Contest has a tradition of inspiring creativity and prodigious effort from both the people who run it and the people who enter it,” said Philip Wadler, professor at University of Edinburgh and chair of ACM SIGPLAN.

Although the KU organizers didn’t get much sleep during the three-day contest, hosting the event proved valuable, Gill said.

The contest — which is sponsored by ACM SIGPLAN and often hosted by institutions considered heavy hitters in the computing world — went far to raise the profile of programming at KU. In addition, the team created a new programming language to facilitate on-the-fly evaluation of the contest entries.

“It was actually pushing the frontier of new computer languages,” Gill said. “It was invisible to everyone else. They just saw that it worked so it really was a good test of what we thought would be useful. No one has asked ‘How did you generate this?’ ”

In addition to Gill and Ed Komp, ITTC staff research engineer, student organizers of the contest are listed below by hometown, major, level in school and previous schools attended and degrees earned.

From Fort Scott 66701
Brett Werling, master’s student in computer engineering, son of Richard and Cathy Werling; bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from KU, spring 2008; Fort Scott High School.

From LeRoy 66857
Garrinn Kimmell, postdoctoral research assistant and contest co-chair; doctoral degree in computer science from KU, fall 2008; bachelor’s degree in computer science from KU, spring 2001; Anderson County High School in Garnett.

From Lawrence 66049 and Derby
Wesley Peck, doctoral student in computer science; bachelor’s degree in computer science from KU, spring 2003; Derby High School.

From Lawrence 66049 and Lansing
Megan Peck, doctoral student in computer science, daughter of Robert M. Lehnherr; bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from KU, spring 2006; Lansing High School.

From Merriam 66203
Nicolas Frisby, doctoral student in computer science, son of Albert and Linda Frisby; and bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from KU, spring 2005; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.

From Olathe 66062
Kevin Matlage, master’s student in computer science, son of Brian and Julie Matlage; bachelor’s degree in computer science from KU, spring 2009; Olathe South High School.

From Shawnee 66226
Tristan Bull, master’s student in computer engineering, son of Denise Bull; bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from KU, spring 2008; Mill Valley High School.

From Lansing 66043 and Lawrence

From Derby 67037 and Lawrence

From Wichita 67206
Michael Jantz, master’s student in computer science, son of Ray and Jane Jantz; bachelor’s degree in computer science from KU, spring 2008; Kapaun Mount Carmel High School.

From Concord 28027 and Lynchburg, Va.
Mark Snyder, doctoral student in computer science, son of Christopher Snyder III of Concord, N.C., and Jane Snyder of Lynchburg, Va.; master’s degree in computer science from KU, fall 2007; bachelor’s degree from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

From Lynchburg 24503 and Concord, N.C.

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