Waterloo strikes gold at programming competition

HONOLULU – The University of Waterloo is bringing home gold from an international programming contest held here Saturday, proving that Canada should not just be known for having some of the best hockey players in the world, but also some of the best coders.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based school placed third in the 26th annual ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) International Collegiate Programming Contest world finals, which featured 64 teams from 27 countries trying to beat the clock in a real-time programming showdown.

Shanghai JiaoTong University in China placed first and MIT in Cambridge, Mass. placed second – all three schools earned a gold medal for answering the most problems correctly, but Shanghai did it the fastest.

Student teams of three were given nine problems – equivalent to about a semester’s worth of work – and five hours to solve them live in front of an audience using languages such as Pascal, C, C++ and Java.

IBM Corp., which has sponsored the competition since 1997, often uses it as an opportunity to develop and recruit new developer talent, something which may be even more important in today’s market than it has been in the past, according to Hershel Harris, director of IBM Canada Ltd.’s Toronto Lab and vice-president of WebSphere server development.

“The key thing that students need to do now that they didn’t need to do a couple of years ago, is they actually have to look for a job. And they need to complete a r