The IEEEXtreme Programming Competition Sees Its Best Year Yet

Record-breaking number of students participated

8 December 2015

More than 6,400 students competed in October in one of the most dynamic and intense coding competitions around: IEEEXtreme. The 24-hour contest brings together IEEE student members from around the world to solve programming challenges that they might be confronted with in the real world.           

Teams of students had to solve 29 challenges, some more difficult than others. Despite the hard work that goes into participating, the competition continues to grow. Participants came from 76 countries compared to 60 in 2014, and nearly 900 more students signed up than last year. Of the 2,477 teams that entered, only a select few can make it to the top of the leaderboard. First place went to a student team from Tehran. Switzerland took second place with Romania in third.           

“We’re really happy and proud to win this competition,” says first-place winners Majid Farhadi and Mohammad Ostadmohammadi. “Our team was neck and neck with Switzerland for the top position until the very end.” This was the students’ first year competing. Here’s what took place.

PUT TO THE TEST

The challenges this year had a broader spectrum of difficulty than in past years to make the competition more accessible to first-time participants, while providing more difficult challenges to those who were experienced competitors. To put it into perspective, the most difficult of programming problems were solved by only a handful of teams.

One such challenge was called “High Score,” which required participants to analyze the internal workings of complex code. This year was the first time we used an automated program to assess the results for a problem, rather than the judges doing so manually. This new program opened up a wide array of possibilities for the contest to help us develop even more challenging problems for the participants.

The winning students say their strategy to make it to the top of the leaderboard was to divide the challenges among them so they could solve the problems faster. If a proposed solution had a bug or it wasn't fully executable the students got together to think it through.

WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT

To encourage more students to participate and help them prepare for next year’s contest, volunteers are developing tutorials and videos that explain how to approach such out-of-the-box challenges. This type of training can help them beyond the contest, such as in their internships or first job, or when developing a new product. Over the next few weeks, these materials will be available in the IEEEXtreme Practice Community on HackerRank, a platform designed for programming contests. The project is in development in collaboration with IEEE Academic, which offers free online courses in local languages and was developed by the IEEE student branch at the Instituto Superior Técnico (IEEE-IST), in Lisbon.

IEEEXtreme also now has its own community on IEEE Collabratec with nearly 2,000 members. Volunteers are using it to plan next year’s event, keep participants informed of upcoming deadlines, and recruit others to sign up. Those who would like to get involved can join the community, get access to educational resources, and ways to volunteer.

IEEEXtreme would not have been possible without the volunteers who served as judges, ambassadors, and mentors. They developed challenges to test the students’ skills and creativity, promoted the competition, and organized training sessions and local events. IEEE Member Dimitrios Lyras, project lead and chair of the IEEEXtreme committee, says “This was a thrilling event with all the volunteers agonizing over the scores up to the very last second.”      

Lisa Delvanthal is the manager of student and Young Professional programs for IEEE Member and Geographic Activities, in Piscataway, N.J.

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