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Course Goals

To provide a challenging, self-motivating course for good students to learn what makes programming/computer science fun and exciting.

To strengthen the algorithmic/procedural intuition of students raised in a world of object-oriented programming.

To provide an enthusiastic cadre of good students for Stony Brook's ACM Programming Team, and perhaps strength the SBCSS/UPE societies/culture.

Should you be taking this course? It depends upon your interests, background, skills, and anticipated graduation date.


Make sure I get your name and email address written clearly, as well as whether you intend to take this course for credit.

Be sure to register on both the Programming Challenges and Univ. de. Valladolid robot judges. All programs must eventually be submitted over, but this way you can work even if there is trouble with one judge.

Get the textbook as soon as possible, for we will be following it very closely.

About the ACM Contest

The International Programming Contest stresses teamwork (3 people with 1 or 2 computers per team) as well as individual efforts, since small programs are best written by one person, perhaps after group discussions.

Many of the problems are well-known exercises couched in different guises.

The judges provide very little feedback about why your program is wrong. Often you must debug it by reading the specifications again.

The team score is the number of problems solved correctly over the course of the contest, typically 5 hours. Ties are broken by the cumulative elapsed time taken to correct submissions, with time penalties given for each incorrect submission of an (ultimately) correctly solved problem.

Stony Brook did very well in the 2002 New York Regional, finishing 2nd and 5th of 54 teams. Let's do even better next year!

Feedback from the Judge

Be aware that the judges are often very picky as to what denotes a correct solution. It is very important to interpret the problem specifications properly and not make assumptions.

The judge is likely to return one of the following verdicts:


Both robot judges accept programs in C, C++, Pascal and Java. You may use whatever language you wish.

C++ is currently the most popular language.

Be aware that many students have had difficulty using Java on the judges, largely due to version incompatibility.

Using standard IO in Java is somewhat difficult - a 35-line standard IO template can be downloaded from the judge.

It is interesting to tabulate the judge's verdicts by programming language:

C 451447 31.9% 6.7% 35.4% 8.6% 9.1% 6.2% 0.4% 1.1% 0.6%
C++ 639565 28.9% 6.3% 36.8% 9.6% 9.0% 7.1% 0.6% 1.0% 0.7%
Java 16373 17.9% 3.6% 36.2% 29.8% 0.5% 8.5% 1.0% 0.5% 2.0%
Pascal 149408 27.8% 5.5% 41.8% 10.1% 6.2% 7.2% 0.4% 0.4% 0.5%
All 1256793 29.7% 6.3% 36.9% 9.6% 8.6% 6.8% 0.5% 1.0% 0.6%

Assigned Problems

110101 (The 3n+1 problem) - The Collatz or Hailstone number sequences, a famous open problem in number theory. Why doesn't it ever cycle?

110102 (Minesweeper) - You are asked to compute adjacencies from mine positions, which is in principle straightforward. But what about computing mine locations from partial adjacency counts? It is NP-complete!

110103 (The Trip) - How do we minimize the flow of money in balancing expenses after a trip? Who gets the extra pennies if the total does not divide evenly?

110106 (Interpreter) - Build an interpreter program for a very simple computer architecture. How do we extract digits from the integers to make parsing easier?

next up previous
Next: About this document ... Up: My Home Page
Steve Skiena