Virginia Tech student programming teams captured four of the five top places in the 2004 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Mid-Atlantic Regional Programming Contest — the best performance ever by Virginia Tech undergraduate students in the College of Engineering.

Virginia Tech teams placed first, third, fourth, and fifth in the competition held at Radford University. The first-place win came as a tie with Duke University with both teams solving five problems with a combined time of 870 minutes. More than 160 university teams from Virginia, North Carolina, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and West Virginia competed in the contest.

The Virginia Tech team which captured first place included:

* Derek Brandao, of Spotsylvania, Va., a senior majoring in computer science;

* Doug Peterson, of Seaford, Va., a junior majoring in computer science; and

* Gustavo Moura, of Falls Church, Va., a senior majoring in computer science.

Students on the third-place team included:

* Allen Kerr, of Arlington, Va., a senior majoring in computer science

* Joe Gleason, of Blacksburg, a senior majoring in computer science; and

* Vinh Ly, of Blacksburg, a freshman majoring in computer science.

Students on the fourth-place team included:

* Jeffery Kuhn, of Springfield, Va., a junior majoring in computer science;

* George Helios, of Woodbridge, Va., a senior honors student majoring in computer science and;

* Dave Abdemoulaie, of Blacksburg, a senior majoring in computer science.

Students on the fifth place team included

* Patrick Butler, of Hampton, Va., a senior majoring in physics and computer science;

* Lyudmil Antonov, of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, a sophomore majoring in computer science; and

* Matt Campbell, of Annandale, Va., a junior majoring in computer science.

With five hours to solve eight problems, each team of three gathers around a single computer, drawing on their combined knowledge of coding and higher mathematics to attempt to solve the problems using traditional and new software development tools. The 15 members of Virginia Tech's five teams practice every Saturday morning in preparation for the contest. Unlike their counterparts at many other universities, the students are volunteers, receiving no class credit for their work.

This year's first-place win gains the Virginia Tech team another invitation to the international competition, to be held in China in April. They follow in the footsteps of previous Hokie student programming teams, who have had more invitations to the international competition than any other university in the world. Virginia Tech teams, currently in their 18th straight international contest, have had invitations to 20 of the last 22 competitions.

"We haven't lost regional in more than a decade," said Sallie Henry, associate professor emerita of computer science and team adviser for 22 years. "Only the top one or two teams in each region are invited to internationals."

Although teams from Asia and Europe dominate the internationals, Henry expects that the Virginia Tech students will continue the tradition of placing in the top five U.S. teams at the competition. More than 4,500 teams from 3,200 universities on six continents compete in regional competitions. Only 75 will receive an invitation to the international contest.

Written by Netta Benton.