The National Intercollegiate Programming Championships

All the excitement of March Madness, without the sweat

This upcoming January will see the first intercollegiate programming code war, with multiple teams competing from most of the top computer science colleges in the country. We have invited the 17 schools that appear on the various top 10 lists and so far Cornell, Illinois, MIT, Harvey Mudd, Purdue and Wisconsin have accepted while Washington is a strong probable. The invitations have just gone out so we're still waiting on the others.

Universities have long had national athletic championships. Now with the code war, we get an academic competition, with play-offs at each school and then the top two teams from each school in a final series competing for the national championships. This contest will demonstrate the programming skill of some of the most brilliant young programmers in the world.

What's a Code War

A code war is a contest where each team is given an identical programming problem. Each team then writes a solution to the problem in the allowed time and the solutions are run against each other. In this case we are creating a game where each team writes an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) for the game. We think an A.I. is fun because instead of the result being a score for each team with the high score winning, you watch players move on the board and shoot each other. The play-off is a lot more interesting.

The teams get the problem at 10:00 a.m. and have to deliver a working A.I. by 6:00 p.m. We provide the students with the essential food groups -- donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch, cookies in the afternoon, and soda pop all day long (talk about a balanced meal).

We will first have play-offs at each school with the A.I.s written by that school's teams doing their best to kill each other. Then the top two teams from each school will run against each other in the final games for the national championship at 6:30 p.m. pacific time. (For game specifics, please visit Windward National Intercollegiate Programming Championship.)

Why should you care?

The future of technology is primarily software. The top teams here are the students that are going to go on and create the future. The students at these schools are some of the most brilliant programmers in the world. And showing up to spend a Saturday writing code for no reason other than the challenge demonstrates that they are the ones with the curiosity and initiative required to create the brilliant new products no one has thought of yet. It also delivers the intercollegiate fun of a football game, but on the academic field.

And it will be a lot of fun to watch the A.I. players in the game try to take each other out. The school playoffs and final will be webcast and we're talking to several TV networks about televising the final.