Eakspay igpay atinlay? High school programmers did

teens at computer
Jessie White
The first-place team from the Dalton School - Remy Young, Karina Shah and Cal Lavicka - shows its progress at the Cornell University High School Programming Contest April 7 by collecting balloons. Each time a team solved a problem it received a balloon, the color showing which problem was solved.

Teams from two downstate schools took top prizes in the second annual Cornell University High School Programming Contest April 7. First and third prizes went to two teams from the Dalton School in New York City. Second prize went to Byram Hills High School in Westchester County.

The contest presented seven problems to be solved by writing computer programs, including translating English into Pig Latin, calculating the grade you would need to get on a final exam to pass a class, and counting the guests at an imaginary party thrown by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White.

Modeled on the Association for Computing Machinery Intercollegiate Programming Contest, the competition was created last year by Cornell principal research associate Robbert van Renesse, Ithaca High School math and computer science teacher Frederick Deppe and Daniel Fleischman, a graduate student in the field of operations research and industrial engineering. Seventeen teams from eight schools across New York participated.

Each team was provided a computer workstation and could work in any of several programming languages; every team chose Java, which van Renesse said is the most widely taught in high schools. Teams were given pencils and paper and a calculator, but were not allowed to use other electronic devices or access the Internet.

The programs must run correctly on the judge’s computer within a set time limit. The “judge” is actually a computer program that compares the output of the submitted entry with the expected result. No human ever sees a team’s code. The winner is the team that solves the most problems in the allotted three hours.

Some problems are easy and some very hard, but all are worth the same and are presented in random order. Part of the challenge is to decide which problems can be solved most rapidly. Two teams solved all seven problems, one team solved six, one team solved five, three teams solved four, five teams solved two, four teams solved only one, and one team solved no problems. Participants will receive feedback on their failed attempts, Van Renesse said.

Over a break for lunch, David Bindel, assistant professor of computer science, gave a talk on how to calculate pi to many decimal places, and the insights that offers into numerical computing. The talk was beneficial, Van Renesse explained, to show the students that computer science is about more than just programming.

The first-place team from Dalton was composed of juniors Karina Shah, Cal Lavicka and Remy Young. The second0place team from Byram Hills was made up of Greg Carlin, Brian Singer and Noah Koster. The third-place team was Dalton High senioirs Andrew Milich, Dillon Azzam and Zah Buttenweiser.

Organizers also gave prizes to the first three teams to solve any problem: First (17 minutes), Webster Schroeder High - Alex Mechler, Nathan Connor, Michael Edwards.
Second (tied at 23 minutes), Dalton High Juniors - Karina Shah, Cal Lavicka, Remy Young; Byram Hills High -  Greg Carlin, Brian Singer, Noah Koster. Winners received smartwatches.

The contest is open to any high school, anywhere. In addition to Dalton and Byram Hills, entrants were from Ithaca High School and Rochester-area schools Brighton High School, Fairport High School, McQuaid Jesuit, and Webster Thomas and Webster Schroeder high schools.

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz