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The MIT computing team qualified once again for the world finals of the Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest by winning the regional competition Nov. 8 in Rochester, N.Y.
The three-member team will travel to Prague in the Czech Republic next spring to face off with some of the worlds' best young programmers in a battle of speed and accuracy. MIT has had a seat at that table for six of the past eight years.
Team members are freshman Victor Costan and sophomore Dan Dumitran from Romania, and junior Reid Barton from Arlington, Mass. All three are experienced competitors who, as high-schoolers, were gold medalists in the International Olympiad for Informatics (IOI), the world's most respected programming contest for individuals--Barton was #1 in the world in 2001, Dumitran finished ninth in 2002, and Costan is currently ranked fifth.
Professor Martin Rinard of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) has coached the team since 1997. This year his assistant coaches are EECS graduate students Percy Liang and Cristian Cadar, who conduct group practice each week, choose good problems and make sure the team members practice on their own.
"The most important thing is keeping these guys sharp," said Rinard about the role of a coach. "In a timed contest where a team member has to perform flawlessly under pressure--because the least mistake can cause the program to produce the wrong result--the coach must keep each team member competely and totally in form. The least bit of rust means these guys' performance will drop off dramatically. So we have to make sure they practice enough to maintain the fluency they had when they went to the IOI. Team members typically have less time to maintain their fitness at MIT than in high school."