The Windward National Intercollegiate Programming Finals

All the excitement of March Madness, without the sweat

This upcoming January will see the first intercollegiate programming code war, with multiple teams competing from most of the top computer science colleges in the country. We have invited the schools that appear on the main top 10 lists and so far Cornell, Harvey Mudd, and Purdue have accepted. The invitations have just gone out so we’re still waiting on the others.

What’s a Code War

A code war is a contest where each team is given an identical programming problem. Each team then writes a solution to the problem in the allowed time and the solutions are run against each other. In this case I am creating a game where each team writes an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) for the game. I do think an A.I. is fun because instead of the result being a score for each team with the high score winning, you watch players move on the board and shoot each other. The play-off is a lot more interesting.

The teams get the problem at 10:00am and have to deliver a working A.I. by 6:00pm. We provide the students with the essential food groups – donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch, cookies in the afternoon, and soda pop all day long (talk about a balanced meal).

We will first have play-offs at each school with the A.I.s written by that school’s teams doing their best to kill each other. Then the top two teams from each school will run against each other in the final games for the national championship. (Great video of a previous code war at C.U.)

Why should you care?

The future of technology is primarily software. The top teams here, those are the students that are going to go on and create the future. The students at these schools are some of the most brilliant programmers in the world. And showing up to spend a Saturday writing code for no reason other than the challenge demonstrates that they are the ones with the curiosity and initiative required to create the brilliant new products no one has thought of yet.

And it’s a lot of fun to cheer for the teams from your college as you see the game play out.