LAU: A regional computer science hub
Around 200 students from throughout the Arab world take part in the 13th ACM Arab Collegiate Programming Contest held at LAU Beirut.
The three-member student teams tried to solve as many of the nine programming problems correctly in as little time as possible. A balloon was hung from the computer station after every question was answered correctly.
Dr. Ziad Najem (left), ACPC director; Dr. Fuad Hashwa (2nd from left), dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at LAU Byblos; and Dr. Samer Habre (right), chair of LAU Beirut's Computer Science and Mathematics Department, with the winning team from the German University in Cairo during a farewell dinner at Le Bristol Hotel.
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Nearly 200 students from a record-breaking 57 teams, 32 universities and 13 Arab countries — accompanied with their faculty advisers — gathered at LAU Beirut to compete in the 13th ACM Arab Collegiate Programming Contest, held November 25-27.
The three-member teams tried to solve as many of the nine programming problems correctly in as little time as possible. They were confined to their computer stations neatly assembled on the first and second floors of the Learning Resources Center (LRC), and were barred from using any electronic devices or communicating with anyone outside their teams.
“What we had here were the most brilliant student programmers all under one roof who came from some of the top technical universities,” says Dr. Samer Habre, chair of LAU Beirut’s Computer Science and Mathematics Department which organized the event.
“We were able to promote excellence in programming, excellence in computer science, excellence in education after all,” Habre adds.
The regional event marked the first time since the ACPC’s founding in 1998 that the contest was held in Lebanon. LAU will also host the contest next year.
Record-breaking participation, impeccable organization
Participation in previous ACPC events has never exceeded 43 teams.
This year’s event also saw several first-time participating countries such as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Bahrain. “I think the charm of Beirut has an element to it,” says Dr. Ziad Najem, ACPC director and assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Kuwait University.
“As universities become more experienced, we work to make the problem sets more advanced,” says Najem. “The students drive us to become more challenging.”
The first-, second- and third-place teams came from Egypt, representing the German University in Cairo, the Faculty of Computers and Information at Cairo University, and the Faculty of Engineering at Alexandria University, respectively. The top two teams solved 7/9 problems correctly, while the third-place winners solved 6/9.
“Regardless of how the teams performed, I would say the experience we gained made the whole thing worthwhile,” says Omar Omran, a second-year LAU computer science student who competed in the event.
The contest took place just several months following the second Lebanese Collegiate Programming Contest in June, also held at LAU Beirut.
LCPC is a local chapter of the regional ACPC, formerly known as the Arab and North Africa Regional Programming Contest. ACPC itself is a regional chapter of the International Collegiate Programming Contest.
Organizers took advantage of the national contests in 2009 and 2010 to anticipate and create safeguards to respond to any potential issues.
LAU’s Computer Science and Mathematics Department in Beirut began organizing the event in June with the close collaboration of other departments and offices, including about 40 student ushers, the IT Department that set up the computer stations, the Development Office, the Marketing and Communications Department, the Campus Operations and Maintenance team, and the Purchasing Office, just to name a few.
“We didn’t encounter any problems, not a single problem,” Habre says, expressing his gratitude to everyone involved in making the event a success.
Most of the contestants arrived on November 25. Registration took place the next morning, followed by an opening ceremony and then a series of activities, including a trip downtown, a technical session and a practice session.
The actual contest took place on November 27 between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Results were announced later that night during a farewell dinner at Le Bristol Hotel, attended by diplomats from most participating countries and representatives of some the event’s sponsors.
The top team will be invited to the ICPC event to be held next year in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The event was held under the patronage of Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, Lebanese Minister of Education and Higher Education, and was sponsored by Consolidated Contractors Company, International Computer and Communication Systems, Bank Audi, and Byblos Bank.
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