MC’s computer programming team competes in IBM’s “Battle of the Brains”

This fall, students at Maryville College competed in the oldest and most prestigious computer programming competition - the 34th annual IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest.

The contest’s “Battle of the Brains” regional competition began Saturday, Oct. 24, at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. In addition to Maryville College and Tennessee Tech, schools competing at the regional competition include Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Dr. Barbara Plaut, associate professor of computer science, is the sponsor of the College’s computer programming team.

“Not only is (competing) an excellent way for the students to improve their programming skills, it gives them a chance to interact with students at other institutions,” she said. “Another benefit is that students who participate in programming contests typically become extremely proficient programmers, and their programming team involvement is a big plus when they apply for jobs and graduate school.”

The Maryville College programming team consists of several students who competed at last year’s regional competition. Those students are Katie Bolus, Travis Donnell, Mark McMillin, Houston Miller, Stacy Mullinax, Erin Penrod, Cameron Presley, Cody Rodefer and Nicole Sievers. New competitors on the team this year are Matt Noble and Elizabeth Orlando.

“The team has shown steady improvement every year since our students started competing in 2003,” the professor said.

At the Oct. 24 competition, teams of three students were challenged to work together around one computer to solve approximately eight complex, real-world problems (equivalent to an entire semester’s worth of work) in five short hours.

The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts, while being scrutinized by strict judges, wins the competition and earns a spot on the world finals roster. From Feb. 1-5, the finals will take place at Harbin Engineering University in Harbin, China.

The first recognized computer programming competition was held at Texas A&M in 1970. This initiative to challenge students in computer programming gained popularity throughout the U.S. and Canada. The contest expanded globally in 1989 and increased exponentially after IBM became the sponsor in 1997.

This year, more than 7,100 teams representing over 1,800 universities from 88 countries are participating in the regional competitions. One hundred world finalists will compete in Harbin.

“The ‘Battle of the Brains’ is one of the most demanding intellectual challenges,” said Alan Ganek, chief technology and vice president of strategy for business and technology at IBM Software Group. “These students possess an amazing talent to solve pressing issues involving transportation, energy, water, climate and health. They are a generation with the ability to change the way of life on planet Earth.”

IBM is the world’s largest information technology company. For 80 years, IBM has offered software innovating businesses through the new era of e-business.

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a major force for students in advancing the skill of information technology. ACM delivers technical information to its 80,000 members.

For more information on ICPC, visit or Also, visit IBM’s podcast series at and keep up with the latest updates on twitter at

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