This year, ACM Comp sent 2 teams to ICPC. In the unofficial standings, S&T Gold (Jack Manhardt, Jonathan Ogden, Liam Helfrich) placed 23rd and S&T Silver (Travis Seel, Nick Goodson) placed 25th.
Here is a link to the problems presented: https://mcpc20.kattis.com/problems
Both teams solved F,H,K,M, and O during the competition
Note that this reflection will be written from my own perspective as a member of S&T Gold. Other competitors are encouraged to add their thoughts and takeaways in the comments below.
Notes about this year's competition:
- This year's ICPC presented several unprecedented circumstances as a result of COVID-19
- The event was hosted remotely, rather than at a physical location
- Use of the internet (aside from communication outside of your team) was permitted
- Despite the "ease of access" offered by the remote format, roughly half the normal amount of teams participated. Given the distribution of problems solved compared to previous years, it can be assumed that the remaining half consisted primarily of dedicated teams that continued training despite COVID restrictions
- The problem set for this year was very large, consisting of 15 problems in total.
- Our placement was very strong when considering the highly-competitive nature of this year's competition. We very narrowly missed advancement to the national competition (given the system of determining this, our top team took 17th seed where 14th or better is needed)
- It is encouraging to note that both of our teams performed at roughly the same level. This is indicative that we are growing in competitive strength collectively as a team rather than only as individuals, which has been a goal for ACM Comp for several years.
- Competitors were able to effectively perform competitive strategies that were discussed at training sessions such as proofreading code/ brainstorming edge cases before first submission and analyzing worst-case input scenarios + applying appropriate data structures to overcome time/memory limitations.
- Even with access to multiple terminals for coding, debugging, and submission, S&T Gold was unable to give a proper attempt at all problems before time ran out.
- Despite our commitment to continue training, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 limited our ability to meet at times and caused preparation to fall behind schedule.
- COVID restrictions caused some teams to have to cooperate remotely, and forced others to shift locations partway through disrupting work-flow.
Suggestions for Improvement:
- Competitors are still struggling to identify and apply formal algorithms to problems, not much attention was given to this as it was thought access to the internet would ease this burden. Specific training on how to do this should be given in future practice sessions.
- ACM Comp is still lacking in prepared printed materials, again use of the internet caused us to neglect this issue
- Teams should agree to use a single programming language for all problems as debugging without knowledge of the language and the potential need to rewrite code in various languages is a waste of time. C++ is my personal recommendation, and competitors should strive to practice coding in their target language on a regular basis.
- Specialization among competitors would go a long way towards making application of formal algorithms viable for complex problems as well as free up time for general techniques during practice.
In conclusion, all of our competitors this year did an excellent job adapting to the unique changes in competition. We continue to demonstrate improvement as a team, but still have many things to keep in mind if we wish to become a top competitive force in our region.