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TTU News

Published: Fri Oct 16, 2009

Network World calls it a smack-down for smart people. Sponsor IBM calls it the “Battle of the Brains.”

Tennessee Tech University hosts a regional round of the 34th annual Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest on Oct. 24.

The decisive regional round includes nearly 70 computer science students from TTU along with 10 other regional colleges and universities. Martha Kosa, associate professor of computer science, coaches the TTU team.

Battle of the Brains works this way: Teams of three students are challenged to use their programming skills and mental endurance to solve real-world problems. The deadlines are so grueling and the problems so complex that tackling them equals completing a semester’s worth of computer programming in an afternoon.

TTU will host competitors from Austin Peay State University, Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University, Tuskeegee University, University of North Alabama, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Sewanee: The University of the South and Vanderbilt University.

The team that solves the most problems correctly in the least amount of time wins a coveted spot on the World Finals roster.

Kosa says she’s enthusiastic about TTU’s chances this year. TTU’s four teams held a practice contest recently in which the teams performed well. Preparation for the event can be grueling, she said.

“We have weekly meetings where we work on past contest problems. That really helps us get ready,” she said.

The overall competition involves students from 90 countries and culminates with the World Finals to be held Feb. 1-6, 2010, in Harbin, China. The contest seeks to present real-world problems for the students to solve.

“The world is a little distracted by the economy. But it’s important we focus on how to use technology such as cloud computing and social collaboration to solve big real-world problems like energy waste and environmental pollution,” said Katharine Frase, vice president of technical and business strategy at IBM. “It is important that technology students think about these big concepts and figure out ways to solve them.”

The Battle of the Brains, while a demanding intellectual challenge, showcases student talent as well.

“The students who participate in this competition are the best and the brightest in the world. They are the kinds of people we want to hire,” said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy, IBM Sofware Group.

Visit IBM’s contest podcast series for student competition insights or keep up with the latest updates on Twitter.