Russia dominates computer-programming contest

Country takes four of the top 10 spots in the 2006 International Collegiate Programming Contest. A U.S. team slid in there, too.

A team of Russian college students has captured a top programming prize.

Saratov State University placed first, with four other Russian schools in the top 10 in the 2006 Association for Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC).

Contest winners

Seven of the top 10 teams were from Europe, and just one from the United States: MIT placed 8th, managing to solve 5 of the 10 problems in less than 14 hours.

The poor U.S. showing could provide new fuel for the debate over whether U.S. computer programmers lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to talent.

World finals for the 30th annual AMC-ICPC were held in San Antonio, Texas. Competitors were given 10 complex problems to solve within an allotted time by using computer programming.

The 10 problems (click here for PDF) challenged programmers to create software for everything from data decompression to origami. One problem asked programmers to design a structurally sound sculpture, restricted by the physics of a specific set of materials and specifications. Another challenged them to write a program that could instruct on how to assemble a clock with minute and hour hands, given a specific shaft speed and collection of gears.

Winners were determined first by the number of problems solved within the allotted time, then by the time it took them to do it. The Saratov State University team completed six of the 10 problems in a little over 15 hours.

Each of the Saratov State University team members won $10,000 in scholarship, computer equipment from IBM, an event sponsor and the prestigious world title to put on their resume.

Other than six total slots taken by Russia and the U.S., three other countries made it to the top 10. Poland's Jagiellonian University placed second, and Warsaw University took seventh. A team from the Netherlands took fourth place and one from China took fifth.

Another American university, California Institute of Technology, shared 15th place with 39 other schools, solving only two problems. Other U.S. universities that participated have received honorable mentions for making it to the finals.

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