Programming club cracks the code

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Kevin Jiang, Michael Colavita, Michael Gillett, and Alok Puranik (from left to right), standing with their 3rd place plaque after the competition

By Kai-Lou Yue
Business Manager

The programming club is one of the few clubs at Westford Academy that participates in competitions, but not only do they participate, they often place highly and do well. On December 6th, two teams from the club, each consisting of four students, went to the High School Programming contest at Fitchburg State University, and placed 3rd out of 42 teams from around Massachusetts.

The WA programming club sent two teams of four students to the competition. The team consisting of sophomores Michael Colavita and Alok Puranik, and seniors Michael Gillett and Kevin Jiang won third place. Freshman Nihar Sheth, and sophomores Pranav Nanga, Jonathan Shee, and Nihaal Korandla were part of the second team.

The contest was three hours long on a Friday morning, from 9am-12pm, and consisted of eight timed programming problems. The first team that finished the problems correctly would get first place, the team that finished second with the correct answers would get second, and so on.

Despite the time constraints, the first team was able to budget their time well, but the second team had some technical problems with their computer which hindered their progress.

“At the beginning of the contest, things are a little bit calmer because of all the time we have, but the clock always seems to tick a lot faster when we are stuck on a problem. For this contest, we solved all of the problems we were able to in the first 2 hours and spent the remaining time on the final two we could not solve,” said Colavita, who is also the teaching assistant of the club.

The club prepared themselves in the weeks leading up to this competition by helping each other solve different problems relating to programming, as well as researching different topics.

Jiang, the president of the club, said, “Each week during programming club practice, we investigated a topic as a club, such as recursion or arrays, and tried to solve problems involving those concepts.”

Anjli Trehan, the adviser of the club, also noted how much time and effort the students put into practicing and preparing, and how that paid off during the competition.

“The students worked hard for this … [The contests] give [the students] practical skills and a lot of benefits … They learn to work as a team. I am really impressed with the way the students have handled the competition. Not only their coding and programming skills, but their attitude towards the club,” she said.

However, although all schools were given the opportunity to attend the Fitchburg competition, the club had to decide which students they were going to send. The maximum number of students from each school was eight, with four in each team.

“For the contest, we had more interested members than slots on the teams. To determine which members of the programming club were on the team, Kevin and I selected a series of problems from previous contests and held a qualifying test using the club’s online judge,” said Colavita.

In addition to this competition, the club has been and will be participating in contests that are part of the American Computer Science League, and other competitions such as the Philadelphia Classic.

“I look forward to them taking part in more competitions. They seem to enjoy it a lot, and I am very proud of our students and what they have done,”  said Trehan.