UCF computer programming students were among the winners of the prestigious North America Championship round of the 2022 International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) at the University of Central Florida over Memorial Day weekend, beating dozens of the top teams on the continent to take seventh place and advance to the World Finals.
This is the 11th consecutive year a UCF team has qualified for the World Finals.
UCF hosted the event and competed against 49 other elite three-person teams of student programmers from institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Facing off in an intense battle of the brains, the contest pitted teams of three university students against 13 complex, real-world problems, with a grueling five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors raced against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance.
The UCF team is comprised of computer science majors Sharon Barak ’21 ’22MS and Daniel West, and Seba Villalobos, who is majoring in mathematics and computer engineering. The team — all of whom are Burnett Honors Scholars — finished ahead of teams that included Stanford, Columbia, Harvard and Cornell.
“This team is amazing at cleaning problems up,” says Glenn Martin ’92 ’95MS ’12PhD the team’s coach. “They usually get it first try but if they don’t, I have confidence that they will figure out the issue and get the problem solved.”
This is the second consecutive year Barak, West and Villalobos have successfully earned a berth into the World Finals together. The trio was already slated to compete in the 2021 World Finals — which was delayed due to the pandemic — this November in Bangladesh. They’ll now also compete in the 2022 World Finals, which will be held next year.
“It was comfortable to participate on campus because we already knew where everything was and we could plan our schedule well,” says Barak. “Qualifying for World Finals not once, but twice, was my goal since I joined UCF, so I’m happy I achieved it.”
Winning teams included MIT in first place, Swarthmore College in second and the University of Wisconsin–Madison in third. Georgia Tech, Rutgers, Purdue and the University of Washington also place in the top 10 along with UCF. The top 17 teams will now advance to World Finals.
“I’m really proud of them,” says Martin. It was a complete team effort and every member contributed in critical ways.”
The ICPC is considered the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious programming contest of its kind. The annual competition begins with more than 50,000 teams from 100+ countries who then square off in contests across the planet. In March, UCF’s team advanced from the Southeast USA Regional Programming Contest to earn a spot in the North America Championship.
The competition, hosted by Central Florida Tech Grove and UCF, drew big-name sponsors, including the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) STEM, the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) and the National Center for Simulation. Students participating in the competition are heavily recruited for positions with companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon or Facebook.
For more than 40 years UCF has been among the best in the nation in ICPC competitions, and in 2018 ranked No. 1 in North America and No. 10 in the world.