The UNIBUC team of the University of Bucharest won the fourth place in the ACM world finals ("The Programers' Olympics") and the team of the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute got the 11th place. The contest took place between 8 and 12 April, 1999 at Eindhoven -Holland and gathered 62 student teams previously selected from 1457 teams from almost every Universities and Colleges in the world.
The UNIBUC team qualified for the finals as the winner of the ACM contest from the Southeast European region. The competition was sponsored by IBM and only the first ten teams were selected, the difference of points being given by the number of solved problems and by a penalty score. The best place obtained by a Romanian team so far was place 18.
The UNIBUC team was formed by the following students of the Mathematics-Computer Science Faculty: Adrian Sandor, 2nd year; Bogdan Stănescu, 4th year, at his second participation in the world finals; Liviu Panait, 4th year,and the team's trainer, Cristian Grozea, assistant of the Artificial Intelligence Department.
This event has given us the opportunity to exchange some messages with the members of the team that obtained the exceptional score. Here is what we have found out:
Darvas Attila:The 4th place at the ACM World Finals 1999, in Holland at TUE is impressive. What were your first thoughts at learning the results?
Adrian Sandor - When we found out the results (at the prizes awards) we were a little disappointed as we wanted to be called as late as possible. However, we were very happy to be among the first five winners and we surpassed famous Universities (like Harvard, Berkeley, etc.)
Bogdan Stanescu - I was a little bit sorry we didn't take the third place. The difference between us and the third team was only of two minutes. In fact, our greatest regret was that we didn't succeed in solving the seventh problem that would have won us the first place at a distance.
Liviu Panait - We knew we were among the first ten as soon as the jury said that the solution to the sixth problem was good. We were very happy about that. Then the award granting followed and we hoped they would call us as late as possible (they began with the tenth place). When we got up on the stage and received our diplomas we were extremely happy but then we realized that we could have come back with a much grater prize. My deepest regret is that there is not going to be a next time.
DA: Can you tell me a few things about yourselves? (The year of study, the high school you graduated, who your teachers were, what previous results you obtained, projects and hobbies)
CG -I graduated from the Mathematics Faculty, the Computer Science department at the University of Bucharest. I competed myself in programing contests when I was a student, especially in the contests in Iasi and Craiova. My team succeeded in winning the first place a few times.
AS -I am in the second year; I graduated "Dimitrie Cantemir" High School of Onesti. My second year University teachers who teach computer science topics are Horia Georgescu (programing techniques), Ioan Tomescu (data structures), Victor Mitrana (bases of the computer science), Sergiu Rudeanu (algebraical fundaments of computer science). I don't realize how this may be important but I told you their names as you asked me. As previous results, I'd mention the prizes won at the national Mathematics Olympics: the first place from the 6th to the 9th form, the second place in the 10th and 12th form and the third place in the 11th form. I also took some awards in the computer science contests, for example in the national contests between students' clubs (first place in the 7th and 8th form). I took the first place almost every year at the regional Olympics of computer science in the High School but I didn't go to the national contest as it happened at the same time with the Mathematics Olympics. There have been other contests but not so important. My projects at present: a graphical interface for DOS (I may abandon this project if I give up programing in DOS), a commander/navigator type of program for Windows (and maybe for DOS) and a 3D graphic editor (I wrote it in DOS and I am now working at the version for Windows 2.0), a new and very flexible programing language and a few other smaller projects. As finished projects, I should say that as soon as I've finished writing a program it seems to me it's too simple and not significant. Future projects (for a far away future): a language of hypertext type that would allow writing of mathematical formulae (then a brief mathematical encyclopedia written in this language), a program of synthesis and vocal recognition (in Romanian), a program that would discuss with the user in a natural language (not a stupid one) and others that are not so interesting or they are too daring to be mentioned. My hobbies are: programing, music, chess, Mathematics and (unfortunately) computer games.
BS - I am in the fourth year, graduated the theoretical High School "Mihai Viteazul" Ploiesti
LP - I am in the fourth year, I graduated the Computer Science High School of Bucharest. Hobbies: artificial intelligence, a field in which I would like to apply for a Ph.D. degree.
DA : How does a team get shape, what are the main aces of each member and what is the trainer's role?
CG - In our University, we make ACM teams of the best programers classified in selection contests.
AS - I think the way our team took shape was as close as the ideal as possible: the best students were selected and then we began to act as a real team. Aces of the members? I see things like this: Bogdan is the graphs expert and the most experienced of us all; Liviu is dealing very well with dynamic programing and backtracking problems (he is our jack of all trades in general) and I usually deal with problems requiring mathematical thinking and my critical eye notices errors in the colleague's programs (it's more difficult to see them in mine, unfortunately). The trainer was the man who made us a team, he put us to work together, brought us sets of problems, he was our jury and teacher and always a friend. He was also manager and even sponsor here in Holland. I'd like to thank him again for all he's done for the team.
BS - In my opinion, it would be best to organize a few local programing contests in the University, sum up the scores, choose the best people and make a few training sessions with the constituted team so as its members get accustomed to working together.
LP -To shape a team, one has to take into consideration how well the programers can get along as a team. The majority of the Universities abroad didn't make selections for programers and the teams were selected in a contest of teams as units who wanted to represent the education institution. I think we had the chance to get along perfectly and form a united team (of the 6 problems solved in the finals, only one was solved by one man and two of them were solved by all three of us in collaboration) I also think the trainer has a much more important role than it would appear at first sight. Cristian Grozea took care to keep us in shape, to be always trained and he brought us problems. This is easy after the first training sessions but we had solved all the contests in a few weeks and Cristi had to search a lot on the Internet to find new problems.
DA :What were your training conditions and who supported you?
CG : Most of the training sessions took place in the campus at Grozavesti on our own computers. A lot of teachers supported us (Adrian Atanasiu, Horia Georgescu, Ioan Tomescu), also students and fans (parents, brothers, sisters). Most of them are mentioned in http://phobos.cs.unibuc.ro/acm
AS -Our preparation went on along many training sessions (contest simulations) that took place in the campus (I live in the same building as Bogdan there) and we worked on our own computers. I think we could have worked at the Faculty if we had wanted but the faculty technical facilities are rather poor and it would have been more difficult anyway. Those who supported us were our relatives and friends (they supported us morally) and Cristi, obviously. As for the rest, they didn't bother a lot with us.
BS -Most of the sessions took place in my campus room, then part of them were in Adrian's room and we used my computer and his. We are grateful to our roommates who used to evaporate while we were training.
LP - We studied extensively and we found support in very many persons: colleagues, friends, teachers. A special merit is due to the trainer Cristian Grozea who took care to offer us conditions similar to the contest ones. We had the same utilities, the same operation system and the same programing media.