NOVEMBER 17, 2020 — A UTSA club is preparing students to contend for jobs in the competitive tech industry.
The International Collegiate Programming Contest club is part of UTSA’s Association for Computing Machinery chapter. The International Collegiate Programming Contest is a global programming competition. Thousands of three-person teams compete by solving anywhere from eight to 12 algorithm problems of varying difficulty.
Students in the programming contest club gain experience in all fields of technology and computing during regular meetings and ICPC competitions.
In November the club hosted the first UTSA-only programming contest. Seven teams solved as many algorithm and data structure problems as they could during an intense two-hour competition. Team iterators, a mix of computer engineering and computer science students, won first place.
“Our plan is to have a contest every semester that involves multiple departments and colleges,” said faculty adviser and computer science assistant professor of practice Mark Robinson. “We feel it’s a great way to involve different departments that all have a shared interest in using code to solve problems.”
The club offers students who are interested in a computing or technology career the opportunity to improve, practice and apply their technical skills. Through strategy workshops and collaborative problem-solving exercises, students become stronger in algorithms and data structures.
“No matter how far you are in your curriculum, there’s always something new to learn at ICPC, which is something I really enjoy about it,” said director and computer science student Brent Delia. “And to students who want more than what we provide at our usual meetings, we also provide contest opportunities where students can form teams and compete against others. Not only does this benefit students to improve their problem-solving skills, it also gives them teamwork experience and help familiarize them with solving problems against a clock. The latter is handy when it comes to technical interviews, since it helps getting into that mindset of solving a problem live and hopefully eases the pressure by having that experience.”
Major companies in the industry, such as Amazon, will ask candidates to solve the kind of problems ICPC practices during their interview.
“This really helps our students prepare if they are interested in going on to work for Facebook or Google,” Robinson said. “Students know that they have to study ahead of time and prepare. The kind of interview preparation process students have to do to survive the interview process for, say, Google is really starting to look a lot like the GRE.”
In addition to sharpening their technical skills, students also learn more about useful algorithms and data structures that might not be covered in the core curriculum.
“ICPC is an opportunity for students to meet and work with variety of folks at different skill levels,” said ICPC coach and computer science faculty member Jessica Sherette. “Getting a chance to work with more experienced students is obviously beneficial, but working with less experienced students is also great, since explaining your ideas and solutions to others is such an important career skill.”
ICPC was started five years ago when two students approached Robinson and asked if he would sponsor their student organization. They wanted to compete in ICPC and felt that UTSA needed to be involved.
“I can definitely say, from personal experience, that being a part of ICPC has prepared me to take on all of my technical interviews,” said Delia. “To be able to identify the type of problem I’m solving, to come up with various solutions, and to be able to explain and measure the run time of these solutions has helped me be successful in my interviews. I’ve landed an internship this past summer as well as a full-time offer for when I graduate, and I’m confident to say that part of this was because of the skills I’ve developed at ICPC.”
UTSA’s Classroom to Career Initiative further develops and promotes experiential learning opportunities for students, including those that occur outside the classroom such as internships, service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad.
ICPC will continue to meet on Saturdays until November 21. Afterward, the club will resume meeting mid-January 2021. All are welcome to attend. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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