Write Code, Get Prizes, and Win the World Championship

Want a chance to score a Microsoft Xbox (with Kinect), Surface Tablet, Kinect Bundle, IntelliJ and ReSharper?

All you have to do is sign up and compete in the most exciting programming contest in the world.

The Windward Code Wars

Code Wars is a one of the top code wars (super hackathon) contests for college students. You spend a day programming — for fun — an A.I. character. Then you cheer one another on as you try to beat the crap out of the other teams. The top 2 teams at each school go on to the international championships. And the international championships determines the top computer science school in the world.

And it’s all done through cyberspace — Harvey Mudd students compete without leaving the Harvey Mudd campus, Purdue students compete without leaving the Purdue campus, etc. — so virtually anyone can participate. Last year participants included MIT, Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, University of Toronto, and more.

Code Wars Prizes

This January 26, 2013, you can not only kick ass in the contest; you can win some sweet prizes:

  • A quad core HP laptop for every student and the faculty advisor on the top 3 winning teams.
  • A Microsoft Surface Tablet for every student on the winning team
  • A Microsoft Kinect for every student on the 2nd and 3rd place teams
  • A free copy of IntelliJ for every student on each school’s 1st place team
  • A free copy of ReSharper for every student on each school’s 1st place team
  • A free academic copy of Windward AutoTag for every student who participates
  • A free copy of the Windward development server (Java and .NET versions) for every student who participates

Team Trophy

Win your School the World Championship

Win (or come in second) in the contest at your school on Saturday and you then upload your code to Windward. On Sunday January 27 all of the champion teams will then compete against each other for the title of World Champion. This gives your school bragging rights as the best computer science department in the world.

And your school gets this super-sweet glass sailboat trophy. (The trophy is so stunning, the football team will be jealous – don’t rub it in… too much.)

Yes, Freshman can Dominate

Code Wars rewards strategy and problem solving rather than simply coding. So what if you’re a first year student; you can compete against grad students.

And win!

It’s like if the contest was to write the A.I. for a chess game (it isn’t; you won’t know the challenge until that day). And one team has four awesome programmers. And the other has one person who has taken one programming class – but is a chess grandmaster. That 1-person team has a huge advantage. The key to a winning A.I. is the strategic approach you come up with.

Sign up to Compete

Still not sure Code Wars is for you? Check out what a blast teams had last year:

Get your team signed up now and add players as needed

Oh, and sign up by December 25 and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a Microsoft Xbox with Kinect and 4 controllers.

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When StackOverflow Goes Bad

First off, I use StackOverflow a lot and find it really useful. Most of the time answers are useful and people are helpful. But you also have a small number of contributors that are complete dicks. And when that happens, StackOverflow gets ugly. For an example, take a look at this question:

How to work with “fifo” in C# .net?

How to work with “fifo” in C# .net? (is it possible in .net 3.5 in 4.0?)

First off the question is clear to anyone not being purposely obtuse. He/she wants to know what standard collection in C# implements a FIFO stack. And the answer is the Queue<> collection.

But what do we get?

  1. Closed by 5 people as not a real question. Really? This reminds me of immature teenagers looking for any excuse to exercise their authority by disallowing a question.
  2. Someone who said they need to implement it themselves. Trying to act superior with a generic useless answer (and displaying an utter lack of knowledge of the .NET API in the process).
  3. Several people who posted what a FIFO stack is. This is beyond lame as the person asking the question clearly knows what a FIFO stack is.
  4. And my favorite – one that fully answered the question, but added they needed more detail on the question to fully answer it. Kudos though for showing you are smart enough to understand the question, knowledgeable enough to answer it, and dickish enough to denigrate the questioner.

This puts me in mind of a dead on post about Hacker News comments:

most of the replies reinforced the notion that Hacker News readers are predominantly male know-it-alls and on the average, a bunch of snarky dicks.

When I see responses like this I don’t think, Oh My God, those commenters are clearly geniuses. What I think is these are people I would never want to work with – they’re either stupid or they’re focused on tearing others down to try and rise above them (and destined to consistently fail).

For a similar take – Stack exchange, moderators with OCD, and why some poor sap won’t be able to find a quick solution now.

Update: A request by a Stack Overflow moderator – he/she wants to close more than 50 questions/day. Totally out of control.

Students Only – The Windward International Collegiate Code War Championship.

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Windward Code War – for Ages 17 – 70

A number of students have asked if freshmen can be competitive in this contest. Absolutely! The challenge is purposely designed so that Advanced classes are not an overwhelming advantage.

Let me provide an example. What if the contest was to write the A.I. for a chess game. One team has 4 awesome programmers. But none of them have ever played chess and barely know the rules. The other team has 2 people, a freshman who’s total programming experience is one semester of Python and… a chess grandmaster. Who’s going to win?

The key to a winning A.I. is the strategic approach you come up with. With that said, better programmers will be able to code up the approach quicker. They will have time to then test and adjust it to improve it. So writing code quickly that does what you want – yes that’s important. But definitely secondary to coming up with a good strategic approach.

As to writing well-crafted code. Code that is faster than everyone else. Code you can be proud of. That does not matter at all. Premature optimization is one of the major sins of programming. And in this game premature is anytime during the contest.

One thing from our perspective as instructors: we really appreciated that the competition emphasized strategy and problem solving rather than simply coding. – Professor Joline Morrison, Univ. of Wisconsin

This is one of the reasons I think our competition is so good – it rewards programmers who can see the big picture and craft a quick solution that implements a solution. And that is what is really valuable in the real world.

Update: In the 2013 competition the 2nd place team was 5 freshmen from the University of Maryland.