NMU hosts computer programming invitational

MARQUETTE – Flash drives containing correct computer programs were the focus at the 15th annual Northern Michigan University Invitational Programming Contest.

Teams with names such as Java Jostles Jimmies from NMU and Razzmatazz from Michigan Tech University took part in computer problem-solving exercises Saturday. Teams representing NMU, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State University and St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., competed in the event, which took place at Jamrich Hall.

Michigan Tech won the school competition, followed by NMU, St. Scholastica and LSSU. The top team was the Incredibly Unimaginative Team from MTU.

“The purpose is simply to have a fun academic event,” said Andy Poe, NMU professor of mathematics and computer science.

He said the teams had five hours to solve six problems, with correct programs earning a point each.

“They’re writing general-purpose programs to solve specific problems,” Poe said.

For example, Poe said one problem, “Double Sorting,” involved the teams being given lists of male and female names, with instructions being to list the males in alphabetical order and the females in reverse alphabetical order.

“The Cornucopia” takes off on “The Hunger Games” in which all of the tributes are at the edge of an arena surrounding a cornucopia in the center. The cornucopia contains knives, swords, bows and arrows, drinking water, poisoned drinking water and other “wonderful goodies” the tributes need to survive. Teams, which were to imagine the arena as a hexagon, had to draw an arena of various sizes.

“Some are harder than others, but they’re all worth the same,” Poe said.

Adam Weingarten, an NMU senior majoring in computer science, said participating in the programming competition is a good way to learn.

“It’s a more fun way to learn about programming,” Weingarten said.

Alex Lanthier, an NMU sophomore and computer science major, said: “It’s very challenging. The problems are of a higher difficulty than what I’m used to solving in class.”

Weingarten said the event has a practical side to it, as students might be asked to solve problems in job interviews.

“It definitely has a real world application,” he said.

Heather Arpoika, a fifth-year NMU senior majoring in computer science, was a runner at this year’s event, taking the teams’ flash drives and delivering them to the judging area. She also was a past participant.

“This year, I just decided to be more relaxed,” Arpoika said.

However, she acknowledged taking part in the competition had its merits.

“It’s fun to test your skills, to see what you can do,” Arpoika said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.