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Introduction to ACM-ICPC

About the Contest
The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) traces its roots to a competition held at Texas A&M in 1970 hosted by the Alpha Chapter of the UPE Computer Science Honor Society. The idea quickly gained popularity within the United States and Canada as an innovative initiative to assist in the development of top students in the emerging field of computer science.

The contest evolved into a multi-tier competition with the first Finals held at the ACM Computer Science Conference in 1977. Headquartered at Baylor University since the 1980s, the contest has expanded into a global network of universities hosting regional competitions that advance teams to the World Finals.

The contest is recognized as the global college student computer-programming contest with the largest scale and highest level, aiming at providing college students with a stage, on which they could develop their ability to analyze and solve problems with computers. 28 sessions have been held since 1970. In respect that every session many talents get together, ACM is paid great attention by the world well-known universities and global famous computer companies. APPLE, AT&T, MICROSOFT and IBM have been the sponsors respectively. In 2004, 4109 delegating teams at over 1582 universities from 71 countries on six continents attended the global contest. ACM-ICPC has become the most influential international computer contest among college students all over the world.

This contest not only cultivates the creativity and team spirit of the candidates, and innovative consciousness in software exploitation, it also tests the candidates' ability to achieve tasks under pressure. This contest is divided into two phases: regional contest and world finals. The team who ranks first of each regional contest gets the pass of attending the world finals automatically. The world finals are held in March to April every year, and regional contests are held in September to December of the previous year. Every university can establish a team (with coach, three regulars and a member on the reserve).

The universities from mainland of China began to attend the Asian regional contest of ACM-ICPC in 1996. The first five contest of China region were placed in Shanghai, which was in the charge of Shanghai University; in 2002, the contest of China region was undertaken by Tsinghua University and Xian Jiaotong University; in 2003, it was undertaken by Tsinghua University and Sun Yat-sen University; in 2004, it was undertaken by Peking University and Shanghai Jiaotong University. Shanghai Jiaotong University has won the world champion in Hawaii('2002) and Shanghai('2005), actualizing championship won by Asian universities for the first time.

ACM-ICPC has become a wide stage, on which universities, home and abroad, reveal the capability, promote communication, and strengthen corporation and co-prosperity. Participation of the elites, communication and cooperation between the universities will make it a good opportunity for college students to exploit their talent in the computer field, and will make it a bridge of improvement of friendship between universities. It is firmly believed that the success of the sponsorship of the contest will give impetus to the better computer education of China.

Battle of the Brains
The contest pits teams of three university students against eight or more complex, real-world problems, with a grueling five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance.

Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still others are simply too hard to solve - except, of course, for the world's brightest problem-solvers.

Judging is relentlessly strict. The students are given a problem statement - not a requirements document. They are given an example of test data, but they do not have access to the judges' test data and acceptance criteria. Each incorrect solution submitted is assessed a time penalty. You don't want to waste your customer's time when you are dealing with the supreme court of computing. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time is declared the winner.

To learn more about the ICPC, please visit http://acmicpc.org or http://icpc.baylor.edu/

Sep. 19, 2005

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