Stanford Latest School to Sign on for the Intercollegiate Code Wars

Update 6 January: Boston University has announced its participation.
Update 5 January: University of Toronto has also announced its participation.

Think the “Amazing Race” in exotic, far-flung computer science labs, where “Survivors” don’t eat bugs — they troubleshoot them.

The inaugural Intercollegiate Code War is just around the corner. As we near the January 28 competition date, Stanford is the latest university to sign on. They join Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Harvey Mudd College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts and University of Wisconsin in the challenge.

Gold medals they ain’t.

A Windward Code War is where programmers – typically students, although the first code war took place here at our company – program. And they do it pretty much just for the love of programming. No pay, no college credit, no course requirements met. The only reward is some bragging rights and a cheesy trophy.


Why You Should Care About The Code War

Our CTO said it best:

The future of technology is primarily software. The top teams here 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. It also delivers the intercollegiate fun of a football game, but on the academic field.

The Details (and a cool video)

At the appointed hour, each team receives a programming problem. Students race against the clock and one another to analyze a problem, write a solution, and test and debug it. After the 8-hour programming deadline, teams go head to head. A winner is declared when a team’s player wins twice.

Each university has its own initial rounds. Windward then takes the top two teams from each school and they all compete in the national championship.

(There’s a lot more to this, of course. And if you want to see some of the technical details that go into running this event – wonder why the game uses a client/server model? – check out the Playoffs in One Day blog post.)

The first Code War was a computer version of the warship board game Broadside that challenged teams to write an A.I. component for it. This created a level playing field – no one at Windward had any experience writing a computer A.I. – and generated a problem that cannot be solved by brute force.

The second Code War took place at the University of Colorado. Instead of frigates and warships, the game was based on RoboRally. Computer science students created robots to maneuver through a factory that assuredly does not meet OSHA standards. It took Team Chronotron a mere 10 minutes to win two games.

Check out the doughnut-fueled intensity:


So now we’re on to a bigger stage. Our CTO says Code War is a way to give back to the community – he donates about a week of his time creating and administering the game – but really… we know it’s a way for him to play at work and get credit for it.