UK and Ireland Programming Competition 2018 update

alt text Today we fielded our first teams to the UK and Ireland Programming Competition. In it teams of up to 3 are given 1 computer and 0 internet to solve up to 12 secret programming puzzles in just 5 hours.

The competition occurs nationally in a distributed pattern with local sites all over the UK and Ireland. We hosted a local site in our big PC lab, and when registering our site I stated that we would go for 30 teams and be able to stretch to 50. Oh sweet optimistic fellow I was. In the end we had 2 teams, one of 3 of our MSc students and one of 2 of our honours stage students (3rd Year). I think a combination of factors has affected the numbers: I only announced it 10 days ago so it was pretty short notice, and it also coincided with the NASA space apps challenge weekend ( which was also featuring several teams of our students.

At 11:00 this morning I handed the teams the sealed envelope with the 12 puzzle definitions in it and they set to work. Both teams chose to work in C++ and 36 minutes after the start the ‘Al Gore Rythyms’ had pulled in to the lead (locally) by solving the first puzzle. They did receive a 20 minute penalty for submitting an incorrect solution however. 12 minutes later the ‘Console.WriteLine(“Team Name”);’ team also completed that puzzle, also with a 20 minute penalty.

The next solved puzzle was delivered in the 123rd minute by the Console… team, this time submitted with a little more caution and receiving no penalty. Meanwhile the other team was struggling with a different puzzle. Eventually abandoning it, they attack the same problem and submit it again with out penalty 2 hours later. The delay however cost them their (local) lead and the Rythyms slip in to second place.

Aaaaannndddd… that’s it as far as solved puzzles were concerned. Both teams attempted other puzzles but unfortunately only have incorrect submissions to show for it. One of these problems, the one that held up the Rythyms for so long, seemed interesting so I had a go myself. The problem was to consider multiple circular bus routes and to find the maximum number of stops that could be made (not including the starting stop) given a specified starting stop. Ultimately the two teams (and I) all came up with essentially the same solution which successfully passed the provided sample data, but failed the submission tests. The problem text can be found here:

I still am a bit baffled by this one. Following the end of the contest they did release a solution to this which seems to suggest a different understanding of the problem text allowing the passenger to swap routes where more than one route uses the same stop. The problem text however states ‘by taking exactly one bus’.

Anyway, it was fun I think and I am really pleased with our teams for taking part. In the non-local rankings Console… came 104th and the Rythyms came 111th out of around 170 teams which is pretty commendable.

Next year we will be back with a little more idea of what to expect.

If you fancy having a go at the sort of problems (or to prepare for next year!) then you may like to try

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