Students compete in Russia for world coding championship

Three Vanderbilt students traveled this week to Russia to compete for the prestigious title of world computer programming champions.

”] Weichen Wang, Mungo Sammons and Xujie Si are at Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg, Russia, for the world finals of the International Collegiate Programming Competition, June 22-26.

Led by coach Julie Johnson, a computer science professor in Vanderbilt’s engineering school, the team was one of 122 that advanced through local and regional competitions to vie for the world championship.

Teams receive up to 12 problems that they have to write programs to solve within five hours, Johnson told a Tennessean newspaper reporter who posted a story about the students’ efforts. They are scored based on the number of problems they solve, how quickly they solve them and how well the programs work. The champions will take home $16,500 in prize money.

Vanderbilt’s team came in 82nd out of 122 teams in the competition and 12th out of 21 North American teams. Some of the North American teams are from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, New York University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern California, University of Chicago, University of Michigan and Virginia Tech.

Wang, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in computer science, said he practiced coding on websites like Leetcode and Topcoder to prepare, but he didn’t expect the team would come this far.

Johnson said she had faith the programmers would qualify because of how hard they worked in the early rounds. She recommended reference materials to help them, but she said they did most of the work themselves.

“I learn as much as the students some days,” she wrote from Ekaterinburg.

This isn’t Vanderbilt’s first time writing code on the world stage. Johnson said she took a team to the world finals in Tokyo in 2007, her first year as coach. This year’s trip to Russia has presented some challenges — Si and Sammons, who are from China and England respectively, had difficulty getting visas, and Wang said it’s been difficult getting around in a country where few speak English.

Johnson said she doesn’t think this will be Vanderbilt’s last time to the world championship. When students find time to practice in their busy schedules, she said, they show a lot of promise.

“We will just have to see if the stars align again for us next year,” she said.

Story credit: Noah Manskar,