Research, Students

Computer Coding Competition Finish Qualifies Georgetown Team for Regional Event in Egypt

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Georgetown Hoyas Ivan Shandybin (SFS’24), Nurmukhammad Mukhammadiev (SFS’24), and Begali Aslonov (SFS’25) recently competed in the first in-person Qatar Collegiate Programming Competition (QCPC), hosted by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q).

Pitting their computer programming skills against more than 50 student competitors and 18 teams from across Qatar, the three-person team of International Economics majors named “SAM” successfully coded their way into the top 5 winner’s circle, qualifying for the upcoming regional round of the competition in Egypt, along with the top two teams from CMU-Q and Qatar University.

To prepare for the competition, the self-taught programmers practiced individually and as a team, and say anyone can learn how to program regardless of their academic background.  “At Georgetown, we are encouraged to pursue interests that make us well-rounded individuals, and our philosophy is that you don’t have to be a computer scientist to do coding,” explained Begali. “Your major doesn’t define your interests.”

Nurmuhammad, who is cross-registered at CMU-Q for an introduction to computer science course, came across a posting of the competition, and connected with CMU-Q Assistant Teaching Professor in Computer Science, Dr. Giselle Reis, who generously offered to fulfill the competition’s requirement for a faculty member team captain.

“Not only did the Multiversity options of Education City make it possible for me to expand my curricular focus through classes at another world-class university, it also made it possible to take part in this technical challenge, and to work with top faculty in this field,” he said.

For the QCPC, SAM tackled a set of 12 programming problems over five hours.“My programming background is mostly about building and designing business-related products. So it was a great experience to implement more mathematical and systemic methods to solving competition problems that had strict technical requirements,” said Begali. Noting the strategy of applying what works in the classroom to the competition, he also added: “Using the pair problem-solving technique for this context was especially engaging and inspiring.”

With a choice of programming languages to choose from, the teammates utilized Python, a popular programming language used for machine learning, to build websites, and test software, a favorite of both newbie and experienced developers.

Ivan, whose early education mainly focused on a STEM-based curriculum, stressed that the choice of programming language was not critical to solving the algorithmic challenges. “What does matter is how you work together to code your solution. This experience really drove home the importance of teamwork, because successful solutions to the assigned mathematical challenges required the collective problem-solving skills of each member of our team.”

With an invitation to attend the region-wide 24th Africa and Arab Collegiate Programming Championship (ACPC) in Luxor, Egypt, the trio are focused on balancing their studies with preparation for the upcoming competition. The event is being hosted by The  Arab Academy for Science and Technology in the first week of December, 2021. The best teams from the ACPC will qualify for the World Finals to compete for the title of ICPC World Champions.