Queen’s University was the top-ranking Canadian team at the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals, which wrapped up in Prague last week.

Earning a 12th-place ranking out of 73 teams from about 31 countries, the team of three students from Queen’s solved five programming questions out of a possible eight.

Other Canadian teams in the contest, including the University of Calgary, University of Waterloo and University of British Columbia, all ended up in 15th place and solved four problems each. Taking the top spot, that includes prizes, scholarships and, of course, endless bragging rights, was the group from St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics from St. Petersburg. In second place was a Stockholm team from the Royal Institute of Technology and rounding out the top three was Belarusian State University from Minsk, Belarus.

The annual competition pits some of the best computer programming students from around the globe in a five-hour contest of logic, strategy and mental endurance.

Queen’s team member Gary Linscott, a fourth-year computer science student, said he thought his team would do well, and was very pleased with the results. Initially, the squad, which also includes Bartholomew Furrow, a fourth-year physics student, and Daniel Trang, a computer science student, anticipated a top 15 finish.

“When we said top 15 finish, we didn’t realize how difficult that was going to be,” Furrow said. “But we are ecstatic.”

Furrow let out a huge cheer in the middle of the competition when the team solved one of the most challenging questions. Coach Thomas Tang said he was worried the team would have been disqualified for disrupting the competition, but it didn’t have any effect.

While Waterloo and UBC were shut out, the University of Calgary walked away with top ranking in a warm-up event to the programming contest called the 2004 Java Challenge. The challenge was set in a medieval world, and pitted rulers against each other in a series of matches.

Next year the ACM will be held in Shanghai, China.

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