Three computer programming teams from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar participated in the Second Gulf Programming Contest (GPC'12), held at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Carnegie Mellon Qatar teams Brainiacs and Kufta, finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, sharing the winners’ podium.
GPC ’12 featured 42 teams from around the Arabian Gulf. Each team had 10 problems to solve over a five-hour period. All problems needed to be solved in the competition’s official computer programming languages of C, C++ or Java.
Theirry Sans, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon Qatar and GPC’12 supervisor, congratulated the Brainiacs on their performance: “We all knew the team that placed first would be hard to defeat since they recently qualified for the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Final. However, our Brainiacs proved to be strong competitors giving them a hard time, maintaining first place for much of the competition.”
Carnegie Mellon’s all-freshman team, Team Pain, completed two problems and tied for tenth place. Sans commented: “We are very proud of our freshmen team, who successfully solved two problems, which is remarkable considering the team only recently learned the official programming languages. Many teams with much more experience did not fair as well.”
During the competition, teams were asked to use computer science to create a timesaving mechanism for a traveller. The problem involved writing a program that selects one airport from a possible 18 across each of the Gulf countries, including Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Starting and ending in the same country, the task was to use a Java program to discover the shortest path for a traveller’s round trip across the six countries.
Understanding how to determine the shortest distance between six points is just one example of what Carnegie Mellon’s computer science students can do.
“Carnegie Mellon’s computer science program emphasizes thinking out of the box. The programming courses stress precision and perfection. Our performance at GPC ’12 reflected as much as all of our problems were correct upon their initial submission,” said Syed Ali Hashim Moosavi, a member of Team Brainiacs.
Delving into his initial exposure to the field, Mossavi added: “I first started programming when I came to Carnegie Mellon. I then became interested in competitions during my freshman year. Fahim, Baljit and I formed a programming team – Brainiacs. Although we were new to programming, we enjoyed the algorithmic thinking and problem solving involved. It is through our time together that we have absorbed how to interact in groups smoothly. By working on collaborative projects in computer science courses we have come to realize that collaboration is critical for success in competitions like these.”
Programming can “make seemingly impossible problems a piece of cake. A lot of the algorithms that we learned during theory courses at Carnegie Mellon are simple if you know several unintuitive concepts,” said sophomore Baljit Singh of Team Brainiacs. He added, “When I was asked to develop my own applications and projects, I realized how cool programming can be.”
With ever increasing mechanization, the ability to understand how to manipulate machines will be of absolute necessity in the future. These competitions challenge students to solve problems that in different forms could present themselves to programmers at companies like Google. Carnegie Mellon prepares its students for the 21st century marketplace by teaching them how to find concrete, tangible solutions to complex, multivariable problems.