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Simpson Programmers Dominate Iowa Schools at Regional Contest



That may not be a typical way to lead a news story, but what else can you say about the 11 Simpson students who competed in the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) at Iowa State University?

Simpson’s teams consisted of three teams of three students and one team of two students.

Two teams finished in the top 50. The top three teams from all liberal-arts colleges in Iowa were from Simpson.

Put it this way: Iowa State entered nine teams; Simpson’s top team finished ahead of six of them. Simpson’s second team finished ahead of five, and Simpson’s third team finished ahead of four.

“Given the relative size of the two institutions, that is really amazing,” said Mark Brodie, associate professor of Computer Science.

The programming contest is a worldwide event. More than 50,000 students in more than 100 countries compete.

The world is divided into regions, each of which holds a contest. Simpson competes in the North Central North America region, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Western Ontario and Manitoba.

This means Simpson is competing against teams from some of the largest colleges and universities in the Midwest.

“The problems in this contest are very hard,” Brodie said, “requiring a high level of mathematical reasoning, problem-solving and programming skills. Mental stamina is also important, since the contest lasts five hours. There is no Internet access, though contestants are allowed to bring along paper materials.”

Of course, producing Simpson’s best-ever showing at the contest makes for an even more fun experience.

Simpson’s highest-placed team – Mark Becker, Payton McBurney and Malac Blaeser – finished 42nd in the region. The second team – Drew Roen, Nathan Magalhaes and Max Folkers – finished 46th. The third-place team – Blake Dalmas, Bryson Cook and JJ Kosobucki --placed 67th.

But that’s only part of the story. Larger schools tend to dominate the competition. The best finish from a liberal arts college was Macalester, in 22nd, followed by Carleton College in 28th.

Now compare Simpson’s placings to those of similar colleges in Iowa:

Simpson              42nd, 46th, 67th
Buena Vista        75th, 106th, 133rd
Coe                       84th, 170th, 175th
Northwestern College    86th, 115th, 139th
Graceland            90th, 176th
Dordt College      92nd, 123rd
William Penn      105th, 156th
Luther                  111th, 1670th, 167th    
Central                 116th, 134th, 143re
Drake                    119th , 148th, 183rd

“When I first saw the results I was so amazed that I actually went through the entire standings, team-by team, twice, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things,” Brodie said.

Let’s end this story the way it began: