The Orange Coast College Algorithm Club hosted a programming competition Saturday, giving regional students a chance to test their skills and earn a small scholarship.
The competition, dubbed the OCC Code Cup, took place in the Math, Business and Computing Center. The prizes for first, second and third place were $150, $100, and $50 scholarships respectively. Funds for the event and prizes were raised by the Algorithm Club along with the OCC Foundation and ASOCC. The contest was an open event, not limited to OCC students.
“We invited students from Saddleback, Fullerton, Golden West all of the large community colleges in the region,” said Justin Jang, a part-time computer science instructor at OCC and faculty adviser for the Algorithm Club. “This was our first time reaching out to other schools like that. It’s pretty much open enrollment. You don’t have to be a computer science major to compete.”
The president of the Algorithm Club, Anton Tsypko, did the lion’s share of technical setup himself. Described by Jang as a “programming guru,” Tsypko used open source software he installed on a college’s web server in his home country of Ukraine to time and score the competition, and wrote the problems students would be solving himself.
“I was 13 when I first started programming in Ukraine,” the 19-year-old computer science major Tsypko said about his background. “I decided to start coding competitively and then I met my coach, Valemtym Melnyk. He was a high school teacher. He asked me if I wanted to improve my skills with him. I read books and documents on algorithms, data structures and my coach gave me problems to solve. I graduated high school in the summer of 2017 and transferred here to OCC. I’m honestly so lucky to have been born in my coach’s region. He was really well known for training competitive programmers.”
The contest consisted of word problems similar to what one might see on a math test, but expected to be solved with short programs instead of mathematical formulas. Participants were able to work in teams of two if they chose, but were limited to one computer per team. Students could choose their own software to work with, but had to use school computers.
The participating students became laser-focused as the time ticked down to the beginning of the competition; smiles became serious expressions with eyes locked onto practice, and laughter quieted into low muttering between teammates. As the competition progressed, some of the ferociously determined students became more nervous. During the last half hour of competition, the current score of participants became hidden and even the student who ended up as the second-place winner started to bounce his leg and fiddle with his pencil.
After the competition, the students were much more relaxed and friendly, and they talked and laughed as they shared snacks and received T-shirts for their participation.
The competitors themselves were a diverse crowd. Many were less than 20 and some were looking to add a new skill set to an already established career.
“I’ve been taking programming classes for about two years now, but I already have my master’s in mathematics,” said Atif Ahmed, a 33-year-old computer science major. “I’ve actually been unemployed and having a hard time finding work despite that. This coming May I’ll have my Computer Programming Certificate of Achievement from the school and that will open up more options for me.”
Manh Nguyen and Quoc Lee, both 20-year-old computer science majors at OCC, were one of the two-person teams.
“I did lots of practice questions — the standard kind of stuff to prepare for contests” said Manh. Quoc said he was doing the same. Manh was hoping to find a career in video game development, and Quoc said he was more open about the type of work he does, as long as it’s programming.