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     Volume 2 Issue 108 | March 1, 2009|


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Programming Contest- a Great Success Story of Bangladeshi Students

M Kaykobad

Consistent record of success does not appear visible for us primarily because there is a low priority to events in which we excel, and high priority to those in which we have proven shortage of skill. Soil of our land was always fertile in giving birth to individuals who excelled in educational and research activities. Jagdish Chandra Bose, Satyen Bose and Meghnad Saha proved their scientific skill to the world in the colonial regime. World renowned architect FR Khan showed his class and expertise by designing most of the tallest buildings during his time. However, after independence we could not show its continuity because of the low priority attached to science and technology. Fortunately in Bangladesh in recent years some inspiring initiatives have been taken to ensure that our young people can duly represent Bangladesh in competitions like International Mathematics Olympiad, International Olympiad in Informatics and in Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Our experience shows that given opportunity our young students can show their world class skill in those events and earn a good scientific and technological image for the country.

Success in ACM Programming Contests
ACM ICPC is a two-tier contest in the first of which teams from different universities participate in regional contests and the winners of these contest qualify for the World Finals that started in 1977 under the strong patronage of ACM, the largest association of computer scientists, engineers and students. Any Asian university can participate in any Asian Regional Sites. Bangladeshi students started participating in ACM ICPC Regional organized by North South University(NSU) in 1997. Since then Bangladesh has been represented in every World Finals of ACM ICPC thanks to inspiring performance by BUET teams. In 1998 at Atlanta, Georgia BUET team consisting of Suman Kumar Nath, Rezaul Alam Chowdhury and Tarique Mesbaul Islam occupied 24th position among 54 competing teams in 22nd World Finals solving 3 problems and tying with Stanford University. A team from NSU also participated in the event. In 1999 at Eindhoven teams from BUET and NSU participated. In year 2000 at Orlando, Florida BUET team consisting of Munirul Abedin, Mustaq Ahmed and Rubaiyat Ferdous Jewel occupied 11th position among 60 teams selected from 1,968 teams of 1,041 universities of 69 countries on 6 continents. It may be recollected that this team qualified by being champion at IIT Kanpur Site where DU team became runner-up. It may be mentioned here that in the very next year BUET students again beat multiple teams from IITs and became champion in a contest that requires skill in which Indians have proven their class and have been harvesting billions of dollars from Software export market. In year 2002 teams from BUET and AIUB participated in the World Finals held at Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2003, 2004 and 2005 BUET participated respectively at Beverly Hills, California, Prague and Shanghai. In year 2006 at San Antonio, Texas teams from BUET and DU participated, in 2007 BUET at Tokyo, whereas in 2008 at Banff, Alberta team from BUET and EWU participated. BUET has the distinction of a clean record of participation in the World Finals for consecutive 11 years. Such long string of participation can only be claimed by 4/5 universities of the world. This year again BUET has qualified for the World Finals to be held at Stockholm during 18-22 April, 2009. Not only that there are two more universities form Bangladesh, namely Dhaka University and North South University, in the field of 100 universities that qualified for the World Finals this year. While our universities failed to have a position in a list of 3000 universities our computer students could. These 100 universities are coming from 35 countries. USA have 21 teams, China has 16, Russia 8, Brazil 6, Canada 4 3 universities from each of Bangladesh, Argentina and Mexico, 2 universities from each of Egypt, Iran, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Poland, Great Britain, Colombia and Australia. This means in terms of number of teams qualified for the World Finals Bangladesh stands at 6th position. While after all the initiatives being 1/7th in size of India we are earning only 1/1000th of it in foreign exchange from ICT sector, our computer students have been very regularly outclassing their Indian counterpart in programming contests, and we are having more teams than India in world finals being only 1/7th of it. It may be mentioned here that while in the last two decades ICT was declared as the thrust sector of the economy even then participation of our students in this prestigious contest could not be sponsored smoothly. Now that we are dreaming of creating a digital Bangladesh we hope things will be brighter.

Success in on-line contests
Performance of our students in online contests organized by the University of Valladolid has put our country in number one position among about 200 countries (acm.uva.es/problemset). This is contributing significantly to improve scientific and technological image of our country. Of the 70,000 computer wizards participating in this contest about 7,000 come from different higher educational institutions of Bangladesh. Pappana, Saifur, Satej and Protik got MicroSoft job just by showing their programming skill in contests, and some of them even before competing their undergraduate course. In the same way Dolar has got a job at Google. Shahriar Manzoor, graduate of CSE, BUET and faculty member of Southeast University, has been acting as Judge of the World Finals of ACM ICPC for seven years in a row judging the correctness and efficiency of the best computer wizards of the world.

Success in CodeJam Contests
In Google CodeJam India 2006 a total 50 onsite finalists from South-East Asia India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated. There were 2 online rounds and then an onsite final round in Bangalore, India. From Bangladesh, there were 6 onsite finalists. Manzurur Rahman Khan, Istiaque Ahmed Dolar, Sabbir Yousuf Sanny, Abdullah Al Mahmud, Shamim Hafiz, Sabur Zaheed respectively occupied 9, 21, 22, 34, 43, 47 positions.In the final online round of the competition, 5 of the Bangladeshis were in top 20.

In Google CodeJam 2006 a total 100 onsite finalists from all over the world. Istiaque Ahmed Dolar reached the final after 3 online rounds. It was held in New York. Istiaque Ahmed's position was 81st among world's best 100 programmers. We have one among the best 100 programmers in the world!!!

In Google CodeJam 2008 format has been changed this year. Earlier years, there were 1 or 2 regional events like CodeJam Europe, CodeJam India, CodeJam South America and an Global event. Regional events had 50 onsite finalists and Global event had 100. But this year, there is no regional event; just one big global event.

From over 10000 participants, 500 programmers are selected for local onsite (semi-final) after 4 online rounds. The world is divided into 3 regions Asia Pacific, Americas and “Europe, Middle East and Africa”. Top 20% from each region will advance to final round to be held in Google office in Mountain View, California.

Local onsite for Asia Pacific region will be held on 22 September. Almost 200 people of 500 local onsite participants come from this region. These 200 people will participate simultaneously in Google offices in this region Bangalore, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo and Seoul.

In Bangalore, 21 people are participating 10 from Bangladesh, 10 from India and 1 from Sri Lanka. It's worth mentioning that in the qualification round 1017 people from India qualified, but only 10 of them survived, whereas from Bangladesh, the same number of people survived out of 37. Besides these 10, 2 other Bangladeshi are participating in America region.

Our school/college students are also not falling behind. For the last three years they are participating in International Olympiad in Informatics. We are looking forward to making a breakthrough in performance very soon. Our school/college students have already shown time and again that in respect of programming skill they are in good competition with the university students quite often participating together and being ranked very respectably.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Fellow, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences

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