Virginia Tech students won first place and three other top-12 places--third, fifth and twelfth--during the 2003 Mid-Atlantic Regional Programming Contest on Nov. 8 at Radford University. The contest, sponsored by IBM, drew a record number of participants, with 161 teams from 73 colleges and universities competing at nine sites throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Each competing team, made up of three students led by a student or faculty coach, worked to solve a series of six to eight challenges designed to test creativity, teamwork and computer programming skills. The winning team correctly solved the most problems in the shortest time within the maximum of five hours allotted for the contest.

In first place for Virginia Tech team were Kevin Ferguson of Fairfax, Va., a senior majoring in computer science; Joseph Gleason of Reston, Va., a junior majoring in computer science; and Gregory Grothaus of Greenville, S.C., a graduate student majoring in computer science applications.

The third-place Virginia Tech team members were Eric Tressler of Oakland, Md., a graduate student majoring in mathematics; Allen Kerr of Arlington, Va., a senior majoring in computer science; and Patrick Butler of Hampton, Va., a junior majoring in computer science and physics.

Fifth-place team members were Dan Moisa of Blacksburg, a graduate student majoring in computer science applications; Ben Andrews of Salem, Va., a senior majoring in computer engineering; and Vinh Ly of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a freshman in majoring in computer science.

Wes Haggard of Florence, Ky., a graduate student majoring in computer science applications; Derek Brandao of Spotsylvania, Va., a junior majoring in computer science; and George Hilios of Woodbridge, Va., a junior majoring in computer science, were on the twelfth-place team.

"The success our students have had for two decades in this international competition points to the strength of our computer science program," said Hassan Aref, dean of the College of Engineering. "With Virginia Tech's recent creation of the world's third most powerful supercomputer, we have even higher expectations for computer-based education and research."

Around the world, more than 3,000 teams from 68 nations competed in regional contests. The first-place Virginia Tech team is among 72 teams selected to compete at the 2004 World Finals to be held March 28 through April 1 in Prague, Czech Republic. This year marks the 20th time in 22 years that a Virginia Tech team has won the right to compete in the international contest.

Virginia Tech students, who receive no academic credits for their participation, devote about 10 hours per week to practice and homework in preparation for the contest, said Sallie Henry, a retired computer science faculty member who has coached the programming teams for 22 years.

Logan Hanks of Blacksburg, a graduate student majoring in computer science applications, was assistant coach for Virginia Tech. Andrew Ray of Mountain City, Tenn., also a graduate student majoring in computer science applications, served as the mid-Atlantic contest systems administrator. This was Ray's fourth year with the contest, and Henry credits him with the "flawless performance" of the software used during the competition.

Virginia Tech was the only school in the mid-Atlantic contest with four teams placing among the top 12. Other top-12 teams represented Duke University and Lafayette College, each with two winning teams; and Shippensburg University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia, and Wilkes University, with one winning team each. The contest drew teams from Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.

For more information about the regional competition, visit http://midatl.cs.vt.edu/; to learn more about the international competition, visit http://icpc.baylor.edu/icpc/.

Written by Netta Benton.