UMD Computer Science Students Earn Silver Medal at International Collegiate Programming Contest 

Colin Galen, Mohammed Mahdavi and Keivan Rezaei advance to the World Finals, which will be held in Egypt in November 2023.
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A team of University of Maryland computer science students demonstrated exceptional skills and determination that earned them a second-place finish among U.S. competitors (third overall) in the North American Championship of the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) held on May 29, 2023. This achievement marks UMD’s best finish ever in the competition.

The ICPC is a renowned global algorithmic programming contest for college students, promoting creativity, teamwork, innovation and composure under pressure. With a rich history, it has become the oldest, largest and most-esteemed programming contest worldwide, boasting a vast alumni network, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin (B.S. ’93, mathematics and computer science). In the past year alone, the contest attracted participation from 58,973 students representing 3,407 universities in 104 countries.

Representing the University of Maryland in the competition were sophomore computer science major Colin Galen and computer science Ph.D. students Mohammed Mahdavi and Keivan Rezaei. Under the guidance of their coach, Computer Science Professor Mohammad Hajiaghayi, and assistant coach, computer science Ph.D. Student Peyman Jabbarzade, the students showcased their exceptional problem-solving abilities and teamwork throughout the contest.

“I was thrilled about our achievement because the competition requires immense effort and skills. However, I can say that I was confident that our students had the winning formula from the beginning,” shared Hajiaghayi, who  holds the Jack and Rita G. Minker Professorship and a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. “The three students, who have extensive backgrounds in algorithmic programming, have been doing this for most of their life. One thing I have noticed in my many years as a coach is that this group stands out and has greater potential than most students from the top schools in the world. So, it was no surprise that our team achieved great results.”

The championship, hosted by the University of Central Florida, brought together 51 teams from the top universities across the United States and Canada. The UMD team's outstanding performance earned them a silver medal in the ICPC Championship and the South Division Championship title, scoring higher than MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Harvard. UMD’s strong finish also advanced the team to the World Finals, which will be held in Egypt in November 2023.

"Securing third place was an exceptional achievement. Considering the progress of our practices and the formidable skills possessed by rival teams, even placing in the top six would have been an outstanding performance, let alone reaching the top three," shared sophomore computer science major Colin Galen. "We are elated with the result, particularly because it was a collective effort. However, our focus now shifts toward performing strongly at the World Finals in November and aiming for a medal position (top 12) there. While the challenges ahead remain uncertain, we are committed to rigorous training and giving it our utmost effort."

As UMD’s Department of Computer Science celebrates its 50th anniversary this year in October, the department’s successes in the ICPC over the years will undoubtedly be highlighted.

“ICPC is considered the Olympics of programming and one of the world's leading competitions,” shared Hajiaghayi. “Since 1974, all the prestigious universities in the world have participated in the contest focusing on innovation. I would liken this competition to the Putnam Mathematical Competition, which has existed since 1938. So, getting such a high rank in the ICPC is a huge deal, and our students are now among the best in the world.”

—Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 

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