Garbage Collectors take second place at Collegiate Computing Competition

MINOT, N.D. – Every year Digi-Key Electronics company, one of the world’s largest retailers of electronic components based in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, hosts a programming competition between area schools that offer computer science, software engineering, or computer engineering.

Minot State’s team of Ben Yang, Keegan Summers, and Ross Hardy competed in this year’s competition and brought home second place. All three students are majoring in computer science, while Keegan and Ross are also double majoring in cybersecurity.

“The programming competition itself consists of three sections that are completed over the course of an eight-hour day. Short programming problems, word problems, and long programming problems are the three sections. Points of all three sections are added up to determine the overall winners,” said Darren Seifert, assistant professor in math and computer science.

The team named themselves the Garbage Collectors as it comes from a familiar concept in computer science.

“Garbage collection is where programs in some programming languages will automatically clean up unused memory, aka the ‘garbage,’ similar to how things in our short-term memory go away soon after we’re done thinking about them,” Hardy said.

The competition itself challenged them but overall was a great learning experience.

“The Digi-Key Collegiate Computing Competition was my first experience with a programming competition,” Yang said. “Personally, the experience started the moment I committed to participating in the competition, which includes the weekends spent practicing with my teammates, as well as the excitement and anticipation leading up to the day of the competition.”

“The competition was a lot of fun. We had a bad practice the weekend before on a hard question set, so we weren’t expecting to do well. Once we got into the first set of questions, though, we all got into a rhythm and did better than we ever did in our practice,” Hardy added.

Not only did they get to learn a lot and compete against other schools using their skills learned here at MSU, but they also obtained an experience that got their foot in the door for their future career goals.

“Participating in this event helped me with my career aspect because it is hosted by the Digi-Key company,” Summers said. “So doing well in this competition will be a great accolade that I can put on resumes especially if I end up applying for the Digi-Key company itself.”

“As an aspiring software engineer, I believe this gave me a glimpse into what it is like to collaborate as a team to invent solutions on the fly that could help tackle real-life problems,” Yang said. “Further, through the competition, I gained a deeper insight into the current gaps in my skills and knowledge, which is essential to my iterative effort to continually improve my programming and problem-solving skills.”

With their second place finish they received $200 in prizes individually and $3,000 for the math and computer science department. Hardy hopes they can continue to better their skills and go back next year to compete.

“The competition was a great motivator to learn about programming from a different angle than I’m used to in class,” he said. “I learned a lot of things that have rounded out my skills as a programmer, and I can’t wait to work on more for next year’s competition,”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 10/25/21   

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