Brogrammers win battle of the brains

4 October 2012

(L-R) The Brogrammers George Karpenkov, Giles Gardam and Bin Zhou in action.
(L-R) The Brogrammers George Karpenkov, Giles Gardam and Bin Zhou in action.

It took five hours to answer the complex mathematical problems, but a team of young algorithm whizzes from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies and Faculty of Science conquered their nerves and their opponents to take out this year's South Pacific Regional Collegiate Programming Contest.

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) is an annual multi-tier, team-based programming competition conducted in three stages at tertiary institutions across the globe.

Dr Vincent Gramoli, from the School of Information Technologies, says: "This annual event is the oldest and probably the most prestigious programming contest in the world."

The 'Brogrammers' team, comprising students, Giles Gardam, George Karpenkov and Bin Zhou, and coached by Dr Gramoli, programmed the computer code solving eight complex real-world problems within the time limit. The team was allowed to use just one computer, racing against the clock to solve problems of logic and strategy.

They successfully collaborated to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges.

Mathematics and Statistics honours degree student Giles Gardam credits the team's win to regular practice and input from their coach.

"By the day of the competition we were operating like a well-oiled machine. Regular team practice is essential. You're very unlikely to succeed unless you can work together and understand each other's code and ideas. We also looked back critically on how we performed in each practice competition, to focus on our weaknesses and iron out the kinks in our method."

Dr Gramoli says: "Quite literally they are the cream of the crop and potentially the world's brightest problem-solvers.

"For a well-versed computer science student, some of the contest problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms."

The Brogrammers will now participate in the Annual World Finals of the ACM ICPC to be held in St Petersburg, Russia next year.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 02 9351 2579, 0401 711 361,

Sarah Castellanos, 91141145, 0410 457 304,