RAPID CITY, S.D. (Feb. 27, 2013) – Qualifying for the Olympics of computer science is no small feat. Qualifying five times is rare. Establishing that record under the same set of coaches, almost unheard of.
That’s why this year the contest’s organizers will honor South Dakota School of Mines & Technology professors Edward Corwin, Ph.D., and Antonette Logar, Ph.D., at the opening ceremonies for coaching their fifth team to the World Finals of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). They will also be honored in the program and on the ICPC website. The team will be among 17 other United States teams competing in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2013, joined by about 90 international teams vying for the 37th annual world title.
The key to their success lies in their chemistry. Married for 35 years and coaching together for a number of them, Corwin and Logar have found a balance that packs a punch.
Corwin is the technical guru. He picks the practice problems, provides debugging help and is, according to Logar, the algorithms wizard. Logar is the chief recruiter and logistics virtuoso, selecting with uncanny intuition perfectly matched members, or in Corwin’s words, “a scary judge of talent.”
Corwin and Logar also attribute their success to their methodology and raw material – their students – along with the department’s faculty and staff who double as co-coaches and cheerleaders.
Combining a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes hands-on learning, a team mentality and a winning record, their formula is nearly foolproof. And employers are beginning to take note. “Employers care – we get requests for the names of the students on the team every year – they are known to be the best of the best and employers want them,” explained Corwin.
But their biggest motivator is love of game. Simply put, “It’s lot of fun! And when we are having fun, the students get excited about it too,” said Logar.
Their latest World Finals team qualified in November, as Mines students competed in the ACM regionals against 239 teams from eight states and two Canadian provinces. In the regional contest, teams had five hours to solve nine problems.
The contest fosters creativity, teamwork and innovation in building algorithms and programs to solve difficult real-world problems, and it also enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure. It is the oldest, largest and most prestigious programming contest in the world.