A team of three University students will soon be heading to Florida to compete in the International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals — a competition sponsored by IBM — in hopes of landing a job offer.

Engineering sophomores Mark Gordon and Qifeng Chen, as well as senior engineering student Jonathon Thomas Plotzke, will compete in ICPC from May 27-31. The event, also known as Battle of the Brains, is the world’s oldest programming competition and teams from all over the world will gather to compete against one another and solve some of the most difficult computer programming questions.

Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive of the ICPC, said 96,000 students from more than 2,000 universities in over 90 countries participate every year, but only about 300 make it to the World Finals. Those who reach this position often end up receiving opportunities to embark on various future careers, he said.

In addition to deciding the best programming teams, the five-day event also covers discussions about technology and activities that highlight the students’ cultural background, Heitzman said.

Heintzman added that ICPC gathers the most skilled programmers from all over the world in an effort to inspire generations of potential programmers and is “very proud to sponsor it.”

“We believe that it’s very important to shine a very bright light on these elite problem-solvers,” Heintzman said. “By doing so, we encourage others to be interested in and pay attention to and perhaps even pursue academic careers in ultimately professional careers in our industry.”

Heintzman also said he believes the University of Michigan is one of the stronger universities that participate in the ICPC.

“(Michigan) demonstrated a strong staying power out of all these 2,000 universities to be up there, consistently being there and being near the top,” Heintzman said. “The faculty there deserves an awful lot of credit for that degree of not only excellence but also consistency. I look forward to meeting with (the) team, and I hope they do wonderful things.”

Gordon wrote in an email interview that one of the reasons why he enjoys competing at ICPC is because it has provided many opportunities for him in the career field.

“Programming competitions have really transformed my skill set and the opportunities available to me,” he wrote. “I get frequent emails asking to interview for jobs and internships, and I’m 99% sure it’s because I do so well in programming competitions.”

Gordon added that he has been preparing for the event by consulting various other sources and participating in programs, like a practice contest at Carnegie Mellon University.

The team’s coach is Kevin Compton, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Both Compton and Dennis Matveyev — who participated in the competition in previous years — oversee the team’s efforts and help suggest practices that will further cultivate their abilities.

In an email interview, Plotzke wrote that both Compton and Matveyev’s efforts to help the team be successful have been effective for their group ambitions.

“We wouldn’t even have a team if professor Compton didn’t organize this every year,” Plotzke wrote. “They also do a good job staying on top of various practice competitions going on, giving us plenty of opportunity to compete and succeed.”

Matveyev, who taught a computer programming class last year at the University’s Dearborn campus, wrote in an email interview that he is proud of the team’s communication efforts, especially with Chen living in another country in the weeks of preparation prior to the event.

“(Chen) is currently in Hong Kong, while the other two — Mark and Jonathan — are in United States,” Matveyev wrote. “This makes it hard for a team to get together for a practice, but the team keeps finding ways to not let this affect team collaboration.”

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