Teamwork pays off for computer science trio

19 May 2003
Teamwork ensured three UCT computer science students successfully ranked 13 out of 68 teams at the 27th Annual ACM International Collegiate Programming World Finals contest, ahead of well-known universities such as Harvard and the Carnegie Mellon University.

UCT's team, consisting of Carl Hultquist, Bruce Merry and Neil Olver, completed six computer science problems in five hours at the contest, which was held in Los Angeles, California, during March this year. The winning team, from Warsaw University, solved nine of the 10 allocated problems.

According to Hultquist the problems require the application of computer science principles to solve real world problems.

"We had to write a computer program which would then be automated and tested with any set of data. A simple problem might be to find the shortest route from one point to another through a complicated road network system," said Hulquist.

Being friends since high school and with various maths and computer science Olympiads under their belts (all three have represented South Africa at some stage during their school careers) helped the three when faced with the daunting task of solving the problems with only one computer between each team.

"We've known each other since school, we know we can rely on each other and we believe this gave us the edge in the competition. We divide the problems up so while one of us is coding on the computer, the others are thinking about the problems and managing the time," added Merry.

The team made it to the annual world finals after winning the Southern African regional finals in October last year where they finished their five programming problems three hours ahead of the next team.

Sponsorship from American computer companies NVIDIA and IBM ensured the three could compete in the contest.

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