University of Maryland Hosts 34th Annual High School Programming Contest

Students from 29 high schools around the Washington, D.C., area showcased their skills in the annual programming competition.
Descriptive image for University of Maryland Hosts 34th Annual High School Programming Contest

The University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science welcomed more than a hundred high school students from across the D.C. area on Saturday, February 3, 2024, to its 34th annual High School Programming Contest (HSPC) at the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering

Twenty-nine teams, each with four students, competed in this year's competition. The annual contest, organized by the Department of Computer Science, aims to foster interest in computer science among high school students, providing a platform for young programmers to excel and gain recognition.

The top five teams were:

This year’s challenges were designed and judged by Computer Science Professor Amol Deshpande, the contest’s director, and Computer Science Assistant Professor Laxman Dhulipala

“The students have excelled, showcasing skills that reflect advanced learning at the high school level—skills I didn't possess at their age,” Deshpande said. “Beyond its competitive aspect, this competition offers valuable exposure to a professional environment, likely benefiting many students.”

Following a morning practice session, the students spent three hours trying to solve nine problems of varying difficulty, testing their algorithmic and problem-solving skills.

Challenges included writing nested loops, applying shortest path solutions, using geometric concepts like the sweep line technique, dynamic programming and deriving algorithmic principles through examples. The teams were judged on correctness and, secondarily, on the speed of their submissions. 

Among this year’s competitors was Yoseph Getachew, a junior from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.Yoseph Getachew (Second from left)

“In the competition, we needed to apply our thinking skills to analyze the problems and find complex solutions, something that will stick with me,” Getachew said. “Even though it was a challenging experience, it was very educational. It made us aware of our limitations and, at the same time, sparked our curiosity to learn more.”

The contest offered more than just an opportunity for skill enhancement; it underscored the importance of teamwork and collaboration to achieve a shared goal

Ashley Grice (First from Right)“My team and I began preparing for the competition a few weeks in advance, meeting after school to review past problems,” said Ashley Grice, a senior from Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland. “We split into two groups to enhance our collaboration. This strategy improved our teamwork for the competition, allowing us to divide and conquer the questions effectively. I think this practice helped us to understand how we would work together during the actual contest.”

Programming contests are vital for developing computer scientists and honing student talents. However, their sustainability and growth depend on broad community involvement. Engaging faculty, staff, students and alumni is crucial.Jeanine Worden (Middle with students and alumni supporters)

“I initially structured the IT team’s supportive work to be student-led, allowing my student staff to manage the contest server,” said Jeanine Worden, computing director in the Department of Computer Science and HSPC lab director since 2014. “This approach evolved into a reunion, eliminating the need to recruit volunteers since my student staff and alumni eagerly return to volunteer. It's an event our alumni anticipate and our current staff enjoy. They see it as an opportunity for team building and networking. It fosters a sense of community and continuity among all participants.”

The event concluded with Deshpande delivering closing remarks and presenting awards to the top five high schools. 

“I hope all of the participants fondly remember their time here at UMD,” Deshpande shared. “While this contest primarily tests the application of known skills rather than teaching new ones, my aim is that it was an enjoyable experience that highlighted the fun in programming.”

For more pictures from the event, click HERE.

—Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 


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