Suggestions for the next Windward Intercollegiate Programming Championship?

Once the Windward International Collegiate Programming Finals are over, please take the time to give us your feedback here. What went right, what went wrong, how could we have done this better?

And the big question – should we do this again next year?

If we should, do you think it should be an A.I. challenge again? Is 8 hours the right amount of time? Is the last Saturday in January a good date?

And any suggestions for what the challenge should be next year? Please, any idea for a good programming challenge are very much appreciated.

The Windward International Collegiate Programming Finals are in process!

Ok, it’s happening! 12 top Universities enter the arena. At the end of the day, one emerges victorious.

The game board is RoboRally, the rules are last robot standing. The A.I. is passed 1 – 9 cards and returns 1 card for its turn. Over 60 turns it accrues points based on damage it does to other robots. And if it kills all the other robots in the 60 turns, it accrues even more points.

The school finals are at 6:00pm tonight in each timezone. The international finals begin at 6:30pm PST and are being webcast live.

And right now here at Harvey Mudd (where I presented the program), the lecture hall is deserted and the building is completely silent as all the teams spread out to the various classrooms are heads down working on their code. Considering the students participating are the best of the best, the programming effort being exerted today is mind blowing.

And all this effort? It’s in a very good cause. The winning school gets major bragging rights, and a cool trophy.

ps – If you have suggestions for next year, please let us know!

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Which University Will Leave the Others a Bloody Splot on the Field of Battle

And we’re not talking figuratively here, we’re talking literally. The top 12 Computer Science Universities in the world are competing this Saturday in a code war. This is a battle for school pride. This is a battle for bragging rights. This is a battle to see which school has the most awesome programming students.

And it literally is a battle. Each team is writing the A.I. for a computer game. The contest is then the A.I.s from each team fighting each other where one will reign victorious over the others on the field of battle.

Each school has multiple teams competing. They are given the problem at 10:00am and have 8 hours to write an A.I. for the game. We selected a game A.I. because there is no perfect solution. And the best A.I. is not who can write the fastest or most esoteric code, it’s who can come up with the best approach to playing the game. So a team of freshmen can be competitive with a team of graduate students.

school trophyThe winning team at each school gets a sweet trophy. In addition they will go on to represent their school at the final, which is at 6:30pm PST this Saturday. And if you attend one of the participating schools, it is not too late to sign up! Go to Windward Code War for links to the sign up information for your school.

The students participating are the best of the best. They are attending one of the top 12 Computer Science Universities. And they’re the students who are so into programming, they are spending their Saturday writing code for the pure intellectual challenge. The programming skill on display in this challenge is unprecedented. Make sure you come watch the webcast of the final, 6:30pm PST on Saturday Jan 28.

world championsThe school that wins the final gets an even sweeter trophy. We picked this because it is a simple and elegant design and that is the goal when writing code. Plus the sailing ship plays into our company name as windward is a sailing term. But the main reason we picked it is it is beautiful and stands out. I think with this we’ve come up with a trophy that will make the football team jealous.

Who do you think will win?

More at The Windward International Collegiate Programming Championships.

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Electric Vehicle Recharging is Nothing Like Gas Stations

With several all electric vehicles now shipping in quantity, we now have the discussion turning to providing electric vehicle charging stations to support the cars. And as the owner of a Leaf I am all in favor of getting these public chargers in place. But I worry that it’s going to be done all wrong.

The need is different from gas stations. Very different.

When the telephone first came into use, businesses all had phones installed because faster communication was of great value. They immediately saw the win. But what they did was put a phone in their mailroom. Messages to other companies were still dictated, typed up, and sent down to the mailroom. But instead of a mailroom employee then running the message to the other office, they called them and dictated it.

Rather than understanding that the phone could totally change how people operated, it was first used to make the existing system more efficient. (In the case of the phone, executives started going to the mailrooms to talk directly, then they added phones to phone conference rooms, then finally to individual offices.)

My worry is both governments and private companies, as they seed EV chargers, will be thinking gas stations. And this is not what electric cars need – for two major reasons.

A full tank every morning

Assume you leave home every morning with your car’s gas tank full (or ½ full so it’s the same range as an electric). How often will you be stopping at a gas station? For the vast majority of people the answer is never. For most of the remaining people the answer is a couple of times a year when you are taking a long trip.

This is the situation with electric vehicles. You plug it in each night (takes 20 seconds). So you leave the house every morning with a full charge. You generally return home with well over ½ charge. The average electric vehicle will never need to use a public charger. Or if it does, it’s on a road trip.

The one exception to this is an individual who drives over 40 miles each way to work. They do need a charge each and every day at work. But this person does not need to find a public charger at which to top up at lunchtime, they need a dedicated charger at work. Dedicated because it will take several hours (all 8 if their one way drive is 70+ miles) to recharge. And dedicated because if they cannot get a charge on even one day, their electric vehicle is not reliable transportation.

Charging takes time – lots of time

When you stop to fill up your gas tank it takes a couple of minutes. Charging the batteries can take hours. Even the “super-fast” 440 volt recharging takes 25 minutes to go from empty to full – and you should use this fast charge only when there’s no alternative. For the non-daily commute needs, weekend kid’s soccer games, visiting family in Grand Junction, etc. – the chargers need to be located near places where the car is going to be parked for some time.

In other words, charging stations at the soccer fields may make more sense than ones placed by downtown businesses. Charging stations just off the interstate next to a number of restaurants may make more sense than ones placed in a hotel parking lot. Charging stations at airport long term parking is nice, but in short term parking it’s gigantic.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles does not require replication on the order of hundreds of thousands of gas stations. Most of Colorado (Front Range and I-25 to Grand Junction) could be covered with about 16 high-speed (440v) and 250 standard (220v) chargers. Plus individual chargers for people who have a long commute. This is a trivial cost. (One key caveat, this requires software to measure charge need/time per car to enforce public chargers being used by those who need it, not people who “top up” every stop while shopping.)

The bad news is you could well have chargers placed by people who do not understand the use case for electric vehicles. If a city government (like Boulder) installs them, the urge will be to put them in places that are highly visible. And where Boulder residents will use them. And that would be a waste of money because, by definition, residents of any given city will never need the chargers in their own city.

The Top 12 Computer Science Universities – Championship Round

What University will win the International Programming Championship?

We’re less than two weeks away from The International Collegiate Programming Championships. The top 12 Computer Science Universities in the world are signed up where their student teams will battle it out for the championship. And when I say battle it out, I literally mean battle. The contest has each team writing a computer A.I. for a combat game. Each team’s software will be trying to kill the other teams in the game.

Each school has multiple teams competing. They are given the problem at 10:00am and have 8 hours to write an A.I. for the game. We selected a game A.I. because there is no perfect solution. And the best A.I. is not who can write the fastest or most esoteric code, it’s who can come up with the best approach to playing the game. So a team of freshmen can be competitive with a team of graduate students.

The students participating are the best of the best. They are attending the top 12 Computer Science Universities. And they’re the students who are so into programming, they are spending their Saturday writing code for the pure intellectual challenge. The programming skill on display in this challenge is unprecedented. Make sure you come watch the webcast of the final, 6:30pm PST on Saturday Jan 28.

So who do you think will win? Vote for your favorite school here (link coming).

The Top 12 Computer Science Universities

Boston University

I wish the BU teams all the luck in the world and hope they are successful. Winning the championship would be quite a distinction! – Dr. Nancy Baker, Special Assistant to the President

Carnegie Mellon University
Cornell University
Harvey Mudd College

HMC is delighted to be part of this exciting competition. I know our students will enjoy the opportunity to match their coding skills against their peers from other great CS departments. – Maria Klawe, President Harvey Mudd (and a really cool person)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Purdue University

The Purdue University Department of Computer Science, founded in 1962 by Dr. Samuel D. Conte, was the first in the United States to grant computer science degrees. Over the past fifty years, the department, with the support of faculty, staff, students, and administrators, along with generous alumni and corporate partners, has grown to address the many challenges of the ever-changing field of computer science. The Department’s 48-member faculty and over 250 graduate students have distinguished themselves in the core areas of computer science. Faculty also play a leading role in many multidisciplinary efforts, including the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) and the Center for the Science of Information (CSoI). Since 2006, the Department of Computer Science is centered in the Purdue University state-of-the-art Lawson Computer Science Building.

Stanford University
University of Illinois
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts

The UMass Amherst Department of Computer Science has some of the most distinguished teachers and researchers, focusing on areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Digital Forensics, Networking, Software Engineering, Robotics, Machine Learning, Information Retrieval, Databases, Data Mining, Graphics, and Computer Security & Privacy. A faculty of 43 promises vitality and innovation in emerging fields for years to come. The Department of Computer Science offers a world-class curriculum in support of the Bachelor’s degree, the Master’s degree or the Doctoral degree. Currently, 201 graduate students, 384 undergraduate majors, and 1,800 classroom students enjoy a broad and comprehensive teaching and mentoring program that provides a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning. The B.S and M.S. programs thoroughly prepare students for advanced careers within the computer industry. The Department also has a new interdisciplinary B.A. degree in Computer Science. The Ph.D. program trains students to produce their own ground-breaking research. As a highly ranked and high impact graduate research program, UMass Amherst CS is also is one of the most competitive. All our educational programs expose students to some of the most exciting and significant research being conducted anywhere in the world. The department is distinguished by its unique culture of collaboration that enhances both research and teaching. Faculty members consistently work together across traditional boundaries between specialties within Computer Science and are also remarkably committed to multi-disciplinary research. The department maintains significant research collaborations with more than 30 industry-leading technology companies.

University of Toronto (Canada)

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious institutions in the world. Along with one of the strongest and most recognized undergraduate programs, the department features a diverse range of cutting-edge research that places it among the top ten among worldwide rankings of computer science departments. When it comes to gaming at UofT, the students are among the most dedicated and highly-skilled developers imaginable, with courses and clubs and socials events that revolve around gaming and game design. If there’s one thing that UofT students know, it’s how to study hard, work hard, and play hard!

University of Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has 11,000 students and emphasizes excellence in undergraduate education. The Computer Science Department at UW-Eau Claire provides undergraduate students with a strong foundation in computer science topics using a rigorous and hands-on approach. The department has approximately 200 undergraduate majors and 7 faculty members, and our curriculum covers foundational computer science topics as well as emerging topics such as robotics, mobile application development, and parallel systems development.

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