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Computer programming team takes second place

A team of computer science students from Binghamton University took second place at the regional finals of the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest.

The team of Nick Maliwacki, Andrew Paroski and Natan Zohar finished behind a team from MIT — and ahead of teams from Harvard and Brown universities, among other top schools — in the contest held at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Binghamton students earlier placed second in a preliminary contest at the State University of New York College at Oswego.

This was the fourth year Paroski, a master’s student in computer science who also received his bachelor’s degree from Binghamton, has participated. “I really like coding,” said Paroski, who’s from Buffalo. “And the appeal of this contest is that it tests how quickly you can solve a problem.”

He explained that the teams each get a room and one computer and must solve as many problems as possible in about five hours. They must work together to prioritize which of the eight problems they’ll tackle and then use their time at the keyboard and away from it wisely.

While the contest isn’t a simple test of what students have memorized, it can come in handy if a problem is similar to one they’ve come across in an algorithms class. The contest values “being able to come up under pressure with that creative insight that makes it a thousand times easier to solve the problem,” Paroski said.

This year’s competition, sponsored by IBM Corp., drew tens of thousands of students on 4,109 teams from 71 countries.

The Binghamton team was coached by Associate Professor Patrick Madden and Alyssa Ogawa of Queens, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Binghamton and is now a graduate student in the School of Management.

“What I like is that our students really are very sharp,” Madden said. “Just because we may not have the name recognition doesn’t mean we’re not able to go head to head with students paying 20 times as much to go to school in another city.”

Madden, who was on a team that went to the world finals as an undergraduate at New Mexico Tech, stressed that the students deserve the recognition for this achievement.

“It’s easy for someone from Binghamton to be intimidated, but they shouldn’t be,” said Madden, who has coached teams for more than five years. “They’re on an equal footing. We took down Harvard, and I guarantee Harvard spent a lot more money preparing their students than we did. We may not be as well known but we’re certainly not being outgunned.”

Next up for the team: a possible trip to the world finals to be held next spring in Texas.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08