Topping the Competition: Stony Brook's 2018 ACM team wins big at programming contest


Consisting of students from the Departments of Computer Engineering, Computer Science (CS), and Mathematics, the Stony Brook ACM team finished 4th in the 2018 ACM ICPC Greater New York Regional Programming Contest recently held at Manhattan College.

The Stony Brook team, Jiarui Zhang, Junxiang Huang, and Taras Kolomatski,  finished ahead of teams from Princeton (3 teams), Cornell (4 teams), Yale (3 teams), Columbia (1 team), NYU (4 teams), Rochester (1 team), and Rutgers (3 teams).

The competition was a nail biter until the very end. There were ten algorithmic programming problems to be solved by teams of three in no more than five hours using a single computer. Approximately two hours into the contest Stony Brook’s top team was leading the points table with five problems solved when no one else solved more than four. It was ranked 2nd after solving 6 problems, and 3rd after solving seven. When the contest ended it was only a few minutes away from correctly solving its 8th problem.

Stony Brook students started training at the end of September for the competition, meeting all day on Saturday and after classes on Wednesdays. According to one of the coaches, Zafar Ahmad (a third year PhD student in CS), “Our training focused on math, graph theory, and using mathematical solutions to solve real life situations.”

Doctoral student Haochen Chen is one of the longest running participants of the competition. Chen is a member of the Data Science Lab supervised by Professor Steve Skiena and he is about to graduate. His selfless contributions as coach have been vital to our ACM activities since 2015.

Professor Rezaul Chowdhury, the ACM faculty advisor and coach, said, “I am so proud of the students who represented our departments. They endured a tough selection process, many hours of training, and can now enjoy their success.”

This year’s team of 12 students was selected from a pool of 90 applicants spanning departments and experience. Undergraduate students, master’s, and doctoral students all competed for a spot on the team on a level playing field.

“The ACM team is a great opportunity for everyone especially undergraduate students who have a chance to solve problems that they would not normally be exposed to in a classroom setting,” according to Samir Das, chair of the CS department.  

Competition Rankings

As usual, Stony Brook accumulated bragging rights for SUNY and Long Island schools. SUNY Binghamton's teams finished 29th, 30th, and 38th, all behind the top three Stony Brook teams.

Stony Brook's other teams were ranked 20th, 26th, and 37th among 68 participating teams. The final rank list of the top 20 teams is given below with SBU teams highlighted in blue.

What’s next for the ACM team?

Stony Brook’s top team shown above, Ereshkigal, will be part of the national contest in the spring.

As one of the top five teams, Stony Brook’s top team will participate in the North American Invitational Programming Contest taking place in the spring semester.

Chowdhury and all three coaches plan on starting a club in early 2019 which will train for almost a complete year.

SBU was invited to participate in the North American Invitational Contest also in 2016 and won a bronze medal ahead of many top schools of North America.

For photos, standings at various stages of the 2018 contest, past results, and more details, visit the competition website.

Community Support

The ACM competition is possible because of the generous support of many members of the Stony Brook community. Prof. Chowdhury was especially appreciative to have CS PhD students Haochen Chen and Zafar Ahmad as coaches who prepared the team and made the local selection contest a success.

Technical support throughout the training period was provided by the CS IT department, specifically Michael Delgrosso and Peter Ruland. Many CS graduate student volunteers helped during the selection contest and CS administrative support was provided by Kathy Germana and Andrew Solar-Greco.

Finally, thanks to Google for sponsoring the selection contest and the Department of Computer Science for the generous support all along.