A Harvey Mudd College team named “555” moved up from last year’s eighth place finish to be the College’s highest scoring team in the 2017 ACM Southern California Regional International Collegiate Programming Contest.
Team 555 (“5” is pronounced “ha” in Thai, so that’s actually a laugh—ha ha ha) and two other Harvey Mudd teams were challenged to solve complex, real-world programming problems within a five-hour period. Natchanon Suaysom ’18, one of two returning 555 team members, described his team’s strategy: “Since only one person on the team can code—there is only one PC available, and we can switch—the strategy is that each of us has to be confident enough to sit on the coding chair at any point to fix the other guy’s code or to write a new one. This requires some team chemistry to critique each other and understand each other’s idea.”
Teams were tasked with writing software systems that solved issues in a variety of areas, from implementing a program for soccer offside position determination to star arrangement on the U.S. flag to rendering a line of English text as a haiku. Winning teams solved the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least amount of cumulative time. Fifty-two of the 80 teams competing in the IBM-sponsored event this past November submitted at least two problems, and each of the three HMC teams solved at least four problems. In the qualifying round before regionals, the HMC teams held the top three spots.
Team 555 (Suaysom, Mek Jenrungrot ’19 and Santi Santichaivekin) placed fifth, Team list incomprehension (Cole Kurashige ’20, Princewill Okoroafor ’20 and Kye Shi ’21) placed 11th and Team TBD (Evan Johnson ’20, Matthew Calligaro ’20, Jacky Lee ’20) placed 19th.
“With only one senior (Suaysom) across all nine participants, we’re ready for next year,” says ACM team advisor and computer science professor Zach Dodds.
Since 2011, the top HMC team at each competition has reached at least ninth place. In 2010, HMC 42 seized first place in the regional competition and represented the College at the World Finals in Orlando, Florida. In 1997, HMC’s team of Brian Carnes ’97, Brian Johnson ’98, Kevin Watkins ’98 and Dominic Mazzoni ’99 won the World Finals. In fact, HMC is the only undergraduate, four-year college to have won the World Finals, joining a list that includes MIT, Caltech, Waterloo, Stanford and Harvard, among others.