Oxford grad on team that won National Computer Programming Title
● By Steven Hoffman
Competing against teams from the University of California at Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, and Cornell, it was a group of three University of Central Florida students who won the National Computer Programming Title at the Association of Computer Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest in late May.
The University of Central Florida team included Alex Coleman, a graduate of Oxford Area High School, Timothy Buzzelli of Palm Bay, Florida, and Josh Linge of Jacksonville, Florida. Linge earned a master's degree in computer science in December of 2016. Coleman and Buzzelli are both sophomores studying computer science.
"I was definitely nervous going into the world finals for the first time, but I was happy that we were able to represent the University of Central Florida well,” said Coleman.
When it comes to computer programming, the University of Central Florida is a powerhouse. For 35 consecutive years, the university's team has finished in the top three in the region—the only school in the U.S. that can make that claim. This year, in addition to finishing first in the U.S., the University of Central Florida squad placed second in North America and 13th overall in the world finals.
The International Collegiate Programming Contest, sometimes known as the “Battle of the Brains,”
is described on the event's fact sheet as the “oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest in the world.” The contest challenges the teams to solve between 8 and 15 programming problems within five hours. These are real-world problems. Although teams are comprised of three members, there is only one computer so teamwork is an essential part of the competition. The solutions must be submitted in programs in C, C++, Java, or Python. The programs are then run on test data. If a program fails to give a correct answer, the team is then notified and can submit another program. The team with the most correct answers finishes above a team with fewer correct answers. Incorrect answers and the time it takes to identify the solution are factors used to determine the place of teams that have an equal number of correct answers.
The University of Central Florida team is coached by computer science professor Dr. Ali Orooji, who is the faculty advisor, and Arup Guha.
Alex, the son of Bud and Linda Coleman, encouraged other high school and college students to pursue competitive computer programming.
"For those high school and college students with computer Science or math interests, competitive programming is a great way to accelerate and diversify learning outside of classes in a fun way," he said.
Coleman, at the age of 16, was the valedictorian of Oxford Area High School's Class in 2015. He skipped multiple grades in math and science on his way to graduating from Oxford. He is currently attending the University of Central Florida on a full National Merit Scholarship, majoring in Computer Science. This summer, he is working as a computer software engineering intern with Facebook in Seattle, Washington.