Three UCF teammates competed in the 2023 (ICPC) North America Championship on Monday against 150 of the best and brightest computer programming students in the U.S. and Canada.

Out of 51 university teams, UCF ranked 17th — besting Ivy League institutions including Yale, Princeton and Brown and earning a spot in the 2023 ICPC World Finals later this year.

Fifty-one universities assembled three-member teams of elite programmers who train rigorously throughout the year to compete at solving real-world, and highly complex, computer programming challenges. In this intense battle of the brains, students raced against the clock in a five-hour competition of logic, strategy and mental endurance.

Out of 51 university teams, UCF ranked 17th — besting Ivy League institutions including Yale, Princeton and Brown and earning a spot in the 2023 ICPC World Finals later this year.

UCF not only competed in the North America Championship, but also hosted the event on their home turf: UCF’s main campus in Orlando.

Computer science undergraduate Natalie Longtin, and computer science alumni Andy Phan ’21 ’23MS and Jacob Steinbronn ’23 applied their advanced problem-solving skills and collaborative teamwork at the 2023 International Collegiate Programming Contest North America Championship.

UCF earned its spot to compete in Monday’s ICPC North America Championship after Longtin, Phan and Steinbronn finished 2nd in the ICPC Southeast USA region in February. The region includes universities from five states. UCF has placed in the top three in ICPC’s Southeast Region for 40 consecutive years, a record unmatched by any other school.

UCF programming students practice for upcoming competition
Natalie Longtin (left), Jacob Steinbronn ’23 (center) and Andy Phan ’21 ’23MS (right)

As a team, Longtin, Phan and Steinbronn excel in working together to solve problems, according to coach Arup Guha, UCF computer science senior instructor.

“While Andy will occasionally pick off a problem on his own, a majority of the time, two of the three students will carefully discuss and design a solution to a problem before deciding who is the best person to code it. Since they have a mixture of overlapping and distinct strengths, the team has some flexibility in deciding who should code up solutions to which problems,” Guha says.

The UCF team’s success brings an exclusive invitation to the 2023 ICPC World Finals, an elite contest of the top 130 finalist teams that represent the best of 16,000+ regional teams from 111 countries. Last year’s World Finals were delayed due to the COVID pandemic, so the World Finals for both 2022 and 2023 will be held in Egypt in November.

Meet the UCF Competitors

Natalie Longtin, computer science undergraduate student
Longtin is the first woman to represent UCF at an invitational competition above regional level. Prior to attending UCF, she established a name for herself at Timber Creek High School in Orlando as one of two students in her graduating year to score a perfect 100% on the AP Computer Science A exam. With stellar academic achievement, Longtin gained admission to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but instead chose to attend the University of Central Florida. Longtin now works at Google in a summer internship and is on track to receive her bachelor’s degree in computer science in Spring 2024.

Competition Experience: ICPC Southeast Regionals 2020, 2021, 2022
Strengths: Dynamic programming, math problems, number theory

Andy Phan ’21 ’23MS, computer science alumnus; mathematics master’s student
At age 17, Phan already holds two degrees from UCF. In fact, he was 15 when he earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science, making him one of the youngest degree recipients in university history. As a member of the UCF Programming Team, he competed in the ICPC World Finals in 2020, held in October 2021. His team finished 17th — out more than 130 teams worldwide — missing a medal by only five places. Phan ranks as an “International Grandmaster” on Codeforces, a competitive programming website. Phan earned a master’s degree in computer science earlier this month, and this fall he will begin a master’s program in mathematics.

Competition Experience: ICPC World Finals 2020, ICPC Southeast Regionals 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
Strengths: Problem solving, math, ad hoc problems.

Jacob Steinbronn ’23, computer science alumnus
Steinbronn is a recent UCF graduate of computer science.  Over the past four years practicing and competing with his teammates on the UCF Programming Team, he has come to serve as point guard, making sure all the problems are read and time is allocated appropriately. In addition to practicing and competing, Steinbronn also mentors the junior varsity Programming Team members. He says his three internships have enabled him to bring industry-level programming experience to the team. In his spare time, he enjoys rock climbing, a hobby that he incorporated into his senior design capstone project: a mobile app that uses statistics to track progress on the climbing tower in UCF’s Recreation and Wellness Center. Steinbronn will begin his job at Meta in Seattle as a software engineer in July.

Competition Experience: ICPC Southeast Regionals 2020, 2021, 2022
Strengths: Data structures, tree problems, string problems

Why Competitive Programming Is Important

The projected growth in computer and IT occupations — about 667,600 new jobs by 2030 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — translates to heavy demand from employers for skilled programmers. Many companies recruit students who participate in ICPC competitions, often before they graduate.

ICPC — the oldest, largest and most prestigious programming contest in the world — helps to meet the workforce need through training and competition. The contests are held under the umbrella of the ICPC Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity, which is responsible for sponsorship, hosting, fundraising, outreach and operations.

The 2023 ICPC North America Championship and North America Programming Camp is hosted by UCF and is sponsored by the National Security Agency, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, National Security Innovation Network and The Florida High Tech Corridor.