Participating in the ICPC Bolivia experience

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Participating in the ICPC Bolivia experience

M.Sc. Jorge Teran Pomier
teranj@acm.org
Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

Presentation

Antecedents

Bolivia started participating in the ICPC in 2006 hosting a local site. This first experience, begun with a very few universities now it has the recognition and participation of all public and private universities. After 5 year the first team classified to the ICPC world finales. Much has to be done to make this performance sustainable. After this first participation we found a series of difficulties that had to be resolved in order to improve student performance. The average of problems resolved by competing teams was less than 1 (0.5). In oder to overcome this poor performance some strategies were established: Develop competitive learning as a pedagogical methodology in the area of programming. This proved to be a good way to motivate and teach programming[1].

We realized that training a specific team, could have some benefit, but it would be to shortsighted. We needed to develop a sustainable way to improve the programming performance. Strategic alliances should be made with the private sector in order to guarantee the continuity of the competition. We found that only companies developing software that export world quality products were interested in high quality programmers. In the following participations only four universities showed a continuous progress. This motivated us to start training seminars for professors in order to make the competition more competitive. Many activities were developed to train teams. This activities were not focused to one university or group of programmers, the purpose was to overcome the academic problems observed in many universities. The ICPC in Bolivia is a three tier competition. First universities develop a local contest to select their teams. In this stage we help developing problem sets. Until now some are not capable of developing their own sets. The second tier is a national competition. To be included in the Latin American competition, two criteria are used. First the number of problems resolved that is decided on basis of the competition results, and second is inclusion, if the university doesn't have any qualifying team, they are allowed their best team is classified. We have a limit of 54 classifying teams, so this will not assure a place if they don't have some performance. They have will necessarily have to solve at least one problem.

The first activity was the development of on line contests, with the collaboration of Miguel Revilla, of the UVA on line judge, several contests. To make this competition attractive, we classified the best team directly to Latin American Competition. The final result was no to good, we discovered that some teams searched the Internet for answers. Only conscious teams improved their skills. In 2010 we started using the Spher Online Judge[2]. This online judge allowed to use our own problems. This reduced searching solutions on the Internet, and in the other hand, have the opportunity to review the submitted code. In year 2010 three training camps were organized. The methodology consisted in a short theory in one topic (graphs, DP, Data Structures,etc) and 10 exercises that had to be send to a local on line server. This camps were very motivating for organizers and participating students and a very positive evaluation was made.

Conclusions

Some difficulties we still have are:

  • Training programmers still is a task of few people
  • We don't have enough persons that can develop new problems

Major benefits of this process are:

  • Better qualified programmers
  • Motivates participants
  • A permanently growing competition
  • More opportunities for students

References

[1] A new learning paradigm: Competition supported by technology, Elena Vertdu, Ruben Lorenzo, Miguel A. Revilla y y Luisa Regueras, Sello editorial España, 2010.

[2] Spher Online Judge, http://www.spoj.pl/