Programming Contests

2015 – MICS:

Faculty members Mark Brodie, Lydia Sinapova (Computer Science) and Derek Lyons (Chemistry) and 18 students attended the Midwest Instructional Computing Symposium (MICS) on April 10-11. This year’s MICS was held at the University of North Dakota (is that really even in the Midwest?). Despite the best efforts of Minneapolis road construction, rush-hour traffic and snow (!), the 3 vans arrived safely after a 10-hour drive.

In the first session Lydia and Derek gave a tag-team presentation on the undergraduate research in DNA computing which has taken place at Simpson in recent years. Derek explained the intricacies of DNA chemistry to an audience of computer scientists, while Lydia reported the results of student surveys showing which of their skills had been improved by their research experience.

The afternoon featured the poster session, followed by the robotics competition. Ellie Luebbe presented a poster on “Efficient Path Generation to Maximize Data Collection of Multiple Samples using Fluorescence Spectroscopy”. This work was done with Miles Kirts and Eric Marean. Park Mikels presented a poster on “Algorithmic Elimination of Unwanted DNA Hybridization in Complex DNA Mixtures”, co-authored with Geoff Converse and Dakota Spurrier.

Simpson participated in the robotics contest for the first time. In trials the robot performed admirably, but under the pressure of competition it got over-excited and its shot hit the back of the rim. The team of Nate Hayes, Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark, Josh Sutton, Holly Baiotto and Eric Marean worked hard between rounds cajoling, coaxing and coding to get it to improve, but were terminated. Hasta la vista, baby! Although the robot didn’t place, many valuable (and painful) lessons were learned and it was heard saying “I’ll be back” in an ominous tone.

The programming contest took place after dinner and ran for 3 hours. Six Simpson teams entered.
The team of Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark and Thomas Klein won 5th place out of 50 teams total, solving 5 out of 7 problems. This was their best finish at MICS. Since Kendra is graduating, Thomas and Tony plan to hold a hackathon to find a new team-member. Applicants should submit their resumes in binary.

Overall results:
Kendra Klocke, Thomas Klein & Tony Clark: 5th, solving 5 problems.
Ellie Luebbe, Maddie Thomas, & Park Mikels: 8th, solving 4 problems.
Jacob Williamson, Chris Colohan, & Scott Henry: 23rd, solving 2 problems.
Nate Hayes, Jacob Feld, & Evan Kimberlin: 27th, solving 2 problems.
Holly Baiotto, Teig Loge, & Eric Marean: 29th, solving 2 problems.
Audrey Lovan and Elisa Wildy: 30th, solving 2 problems.

The problems and solutions from the programming contest are available here.

The next morning Maddie Thomas presented her paper “Modeling of Linker Stoichiometry for Optimization of DNA Nanostructure Self-Assembly.” The paper described a project done with Esteban Sierra and Blake Tish in Lydia Sinapova’s Algorithms class. The paper was well received and generated a number of questions.

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2014 – ACM:

14 Simpson students performed extremely well in the North Central Regional of the 2014 ACM International Intercollegiate Programming Contest. We participated at Grandview University, against teams from Grandview and Drake. Out of 22 teams at the Grandview site, the team of finished in first place overall.

Overall results:
Jacob Williamson, Chris Colohan & Scott Henry: 1st.
Connor Uhlman, Jacob Feld, & Nate Hayes: 3rd.
Ellie Luebbe, Maddie Thomas, & Park Mikels: 5th.
Kendra Klocke, Thomas Klein, & Tony Clark: 13th.
Eric Marean & Joe Mischka: tied 15th.

2014 – MICS:

A record total of 18 Simpson students participated in the 2014 Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) at the EPIC corporate center in Vernona, Wisconsin (near Madison). Out of about 60 teams, our team of Linsey Williams, Joel Gawarecki, and Jaris van Maanen finished in 4th place, solving 5 out of the 6 problems, their best-ever performance.

Overall results:
Linsey Williams, Joel Gawarecki, & Jaris van Maanen: 4th, 5 problems solved.
Kendra Klocke, Thomas Klein, & Tony Clark: 11th, 4 problems solved.
Jacob Williamson, Mike Henry, & Scott Henry: 23rd, 3 problems solved.
Ellie Luebbe, Maddie Thomas, & Park Mikels: 29th, 3 problems solved.
Jacob Feld, Ben Dimit & Evan Kimberlin: 30th, 3 problems solved.
Casey Croson, Adrian Gibson, & Louis Joslyn: 44th, 2 problems solved.

2013 – ACM:

11 Simpson students performed extremely well in the North Central Regional of the ACM International Intercollegiate Programming Contest on Saturday November 9 2013. Out of 260 teams, the team of Linsey Williams, Joel Gawarecki, and Jaris van Maanen finished in 44th place (top 20%), solving 3 out of the 8 problems. Two other Simpson teams solved 2 problems and the 4th team solved 1 problem. The contest problems are so difficult that many teams solve no problems at all.

The North Central Regional took place at about 15 sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Western Ontario and Manitoba. Our teams participated at Grandview University, against teams from Grandview and Drake. Out of about 25 teams at the Grandview site, the team of Linsey, Joel and Jaris finished in first place overall, an impressive achievement.

The other students who partipicated were: Ben Dimit, Jacob Feld, Evan Kimberlin, Mike Henry, Jacob Williams, Kendra Klocke, Thomas Klein, Tony Clark. This was the second year that our students have participated in the ACM contest, and they had clearly learned from previous experience and from extensive preparation and practice.

The contest problems and results are available here.

2013 – MICS:

Assistant Professor Mark Brodie took thirteen Simpson students to the 2013 Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) held April 19 and 20th in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The students made up 5 teams who participated in a 3-hour programming contest against about 50 teams from small colleges all over the Midwest.

Special congratulations go to Adam Smith, Zach Huebener and Mike Henry who finished in 3rd place, solving 5 out of the 7 problems, and winning $200. The team of Linsey Williams, Jaris van Maanen, and Joel Gawarecki finished in 6th place, solving 4 out of the 7 problems. No other college had 2 teams that finished in the top 6.

The other students who participated were Ben Dimit, Jacob Feld, Simeon Olsgaard, Evan Kimberlin, Kendra Klocke, Thomas Klein, and Tony Clark. All the students enjoyed the contest and are enthusiastic about competing again next time!

Here are all the students:

MICS 2013 Programming Contest

Adam, Mike, and Zach receiving the 3rd place award.


Joel, Linsey, and Jaris:


Mike, Adam, and Zach:


Jacob and Ben:


Evan and Simeon:


Tony, Thomas, and Kendra:



On April 13 – 14 2012, Dr. Lydia Sinapova and Dr. Mark Brodie attended the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS 2012) at UNI with 12 students, all majors and minors in Computer Science. The students presented two papers and participated in the programming contest.

Papers: Adam Smith and Joel Gawarecki presented “Optimization of Tile Sets for DNA Self-Assembly”, co-authored with Linsey Williams and Jaris Van Maanen. Zach Huebener presented “Three Approaches to Solving the Motif-Finding Problem”, co-authored with Kylie Van Houten.

Contest: Four teams of three students each participated in the programming contest. The team of Adam Smith, Blaise Mikels and Zach Huebener won SECOND PLACE (and a prize of $250) among 48 teams from colleges and universities across the Midwest. This is the best performance yet achieved by a Simpson team.

The full list of students who attended is: Cale Cunningham, Ben Dimit, Jacob Feld, Joel Gawarecki, Zach Huebener, Bronson Mayse, Blaise Mikels, Adam Smith, Connor Uhlman, Jaris van Maanen, Linsey Williams, and Jacob Williamson. Everyone enjoyed the conference greatly and are looking forward to next year’s event!


On Friday April 8 six students participated in the programming contest at the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium, Duluth, MN – Jaris Van Maanen, Joel Gawarecki, Whitney Thompson, Adam Smith, Blaise Mikels and Zach Huebener.

Out of 45 teams, Jaris Van Maanen, Joel Gawarecki and Whitney Thompson got 5th place. Adam Smith, Blaise Mikels and Zach Huebener got 9th place. Both teams solved 3 out of 7 problems.