May 1, 2009
School of Engineering, Amritapuri
Dr. Vallath Nandakumar, Amrita’s Regional Contest Director (RCD) for the ICPC, was in Stockholm recently during the World Finals (WF) of this world’s largest inter-collegiate programming contest. Nearly 100 teams from 88 countries on 6 continents competed; they had beaten 7000 other teams from 1983 universities world-wide to qualify. There were only two teams from India — IIIT Hyderabad and IIITM Gwalior. The former had qualified from the regional contest at Amrita, the latter from Kanpur, both teams comprised three undergraduate students each.
Only two universities in India are designated to conduct the Asia Region Semi-Finals — Amrita University and IIT-Kanpur. Amrita has hosted the event for four years now. This past December, 75 teams came from 6 different countries participated. The team from the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad won. Dr. Nandakumar met the team at Stockholm. “We really enjoyed ourselves at Amritapuri,” they told him. “You had provided quite a challenging problem set.”
The World Finals, a 4-day event, was held at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH University) in Stockholm, one of Sweden’s oldest and largest technical universities. The event was sponsored by the university and IBM. No expense or trouble was spared — the three hundred contestants, their coaches and contest directors from regional centers were all housed in Stockholm’s best hotels. Sight-seeing trips were arranged for all and there were fun evening parties to unwind and socialize with the attendees from all over the world. In addition, there were symposia on competitive learning.
Incidentally, several Amrita students are currently at KTH as part of the Eureca program. “I got passes for several of our students studying at KTH and Mälardalen University so that they could attend the Opening Ceremony,” said Dr. Nandakumar. “The students really appreciated this opportunity to attend. Many had volunteered at the regional contest in Amrita a few months ago.” At this event, KTH students volunteered in large numbers. The Opening Ceremony was at the City Hall, where Nobel prizes are awarded.
At the 4-day WF event, Dr. Nandakumar met with other RCDs also. “I spoke to the Chinese and Japanese RCDs about the large participation that they see. China, for example, gets about 900 teams for their online contest. I want to improve the participation numbers in our contest also. One way is for us to make our online contest free.” Dr. Nandakumar also met Jose Paulo Leal from Portugal, who has made the judging software Mooshak that Amrita uses in the contest. “Apparently, Jose is a fan of Lord Ganesha, hence the name of the software,” he said.
India has never yet hosted the WF. “I discussed the possibility of having the WF in India in a few years time, with the ICPC officials,” said Dr. Nandakumar. WF 2010 will be hosted by Harbin in China and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia will host WF 2011. “There were presentations by St. Petersburg, Valladolid (Spain) and Warsaw (Poland), who are in competition to host WF 2012. Everyone liked the idea of an Indian WF. Kerala was preferred over Bangalore.”
The contest ended with the winning of the trophy by the team from St. Petersburg State University of IT. Hard work and regular practice was what led to their success, said their coach.
The next Asia Regional Semi-Final will be conducted at Amrita University tentatively on Nov 1, 2009. “I am determined to try and double our enrollment this year,” stated Dr. Nandakumar. “India is known for its strong skill-set in the programming domain, we should make our presence felt at the ICPC also.” “This year, our theme will be Green ICPC,” added Br. Anand Shenoy, the Associate Site Director from Amritapuri. “We will take this as an opportunity to educate everyone about environmental issues also.”