DA -What do you think the conditions in our Universities should be so as to provide a good training? I mean teachers, study programs, labs, library, Net...
CG : An interesting thing at TUE (The Technical University of Eindhoven) is that all students in the first two years are given a laptop from the University for this period. In our country, it would be good to buy some more computers as updated as possible and with a certain RAM inside. Personally, I miss a faster access to the Internet. Anyway, I think things are better in Bucharest than in the rest of the country from this point of view.
AS - The professors should be closer to the students, to keep on a dialogue with them, to know at least the best of them if they can't support them. They shouldn't loose contact with reality, they should apply the theory they teach; they should be informed of the new things in their field. The persons from the seminars and labs should be more dynamic and intelligent. The program of studies? I think they should teach the C (even the C++) language in the first two years of study (which is not happening now) and I don't know what to say more. Maybe useless things should be ruled out (but I cannot tell exactly what are these). Labs should be populated with computers (instead of the grinders we have now). For example, my group has to attend two labs a week and during one of them we are two students who have to work on a 286 and during the other we are two on a Pentium 133 with 32 MB RAM that is moving very slowly because of Windows NT. Actually, we're not exactly two students on a computer because one or two are missing classes. I can't say much about the library because I hardly got there. In principle, I'd like it to be open more time and the access to books should be simpler. The access to the Net should be possible from any computer in the faculty and the transfer rate should be as decent as possible (approximately 1KB/s as it is now, you grow white hairs until a download is accomplished). It would also be a good idea to make reservations for periods of time when students should have free access to the Internet and the labs.
BS - In the first place, you need three students and a trainer capable and wishing to get competition results. Secondly, you need a good algorithm manual. Thirdly, you need to take algorithm courses or make them less difficult, to be able to miss them for a while. We had all these conditions.
LP -I think the people who want to learn are sufficiently helped in our University. The program of study is a little bit crowded and it contains a lot of mathematical subjects which are not so useful. Our preparation for the contest contained a lot of training sessions and studies of algorithm books available by Mr. Adrian Atanasiu's good will. But we couldn't find a training lab in the University as most of them had too weak utilities and the others were too crowded.
DA -Which were your advantages and disadvantages at Eindhoven in comparison with other participants?
CG : It would have been good to have at least a laptop available to us. We missed that and this was seen at "Visual Age for Java Challenge". A lot of the others had laptops, especially those of Georgia Tech, who also won the Java contest.
AS - We didn't feel we had many advantages. All we knew was that we were trained properly. Disadvantages? For example, we saw two "adversaries" who had a laptop each (which is a dream for the average Romanian student)
BS - Advantages: serious training.
LP -Advantages: very many training sessions, the experience of Bogdan Stanescu, who participated also in the 1997 ACM World Finals, our techniques of programing and fixing prepared along the training or proposed by the coach. Disadvantages: I don't think we were disadvantaged in Eindhoven in any way. We all felt very good and made friends with other teams. Most of the programers were very happy to have the opportunity to take part in the finals. In exchange, we had great bad luck in the day of the contest: we stayed a long time at the H problem and most of the teams solved it on spot and I think this was our disadvantage, as the most difficult problems were of Mathematics and we did well in this field. We needed maximum 7 minutes to solve the seventh problem. We knew how to solve all the problems but we wasted time on an easy one and that drew us away from the first place.
DA- Could you mention three important disciplines (teachers) and three useless ones in your program of studies?
AS - I cannot tell...all disciplines are good for something and all apply in computer science more or less. I studied earlier the interesting ones and that is why I thought the courses weak but I think they are tremendously important for those who study them for the first time. Examples: programing techniques, data structures, bases of computer science.
BS - Important disciplines: Horia Georgescu - Programing Techniques, Ioan Tomescu or Octavian Basca - Data structures, Luminita State - Artificial Intelligence. Useless disciplines: the mathematical ones that do not connect algorhythms and programing.
LP - The same as Bogdan but I consider all the subjects we studied helped us more or less. We could skip those who helped us less (for example, the mathematical ones) The problem is that the subjects we named were studied for a semester and not very detailed, while other subjects were studied for two semesters and they didn't have much to do with programing.
DA :What were the books and special literature most useful for your training?
CG : We used (and we thank professor Adrian Atanasiu for his kindness) the books of Udi Manber Corman, and Leiserson and Rivest.
AS - We used only one magazine - The Computer Science Gazette, and among the books I would mention Ioan Tomescu - Data Structures and Udi Manber - Introduction to Algorithms. The Web sites useful for us were those that issued ACM contests sets of problems.
BS - Personally, the most important experience to me was that from High School and from the Faculty and from other programing contests. Books were rather useful though: Udi Manber - Introduction to Algorithms (A Creative Approach), Thomas Corman, Charles Leiserson, Ronals Rivest - Introduction to Algorithms.
LP - We have all studied on the same books so I won't name the titles again. I think the ACM sites were very important as we solved most of the problems given in contests in the last 7-8 years. I consider that our leading place in the finals is due to the number of training sessions. We also took the first place in the Southeastern Europe Regional Contest.
DA :What are your future plans? What professional and personal achievements you foresee?
CG : For the time being, I work for the Ph.D. degree and for my firm.
AS - I'd like to finish studies in Romania, then leave abroad for a post university degree or maybe to work for a powerful soft company. I do not intend to live abroad;I'd like to come back and build my own software firm in Romania. It wouldn't be bad to get hired by a Romanian or foreign company during summer holidays until I finish school.
BS - I'd like to work as a programer with a firm, a Romanian one if possible and also to fill an assistant position at a University in Bucharest. Professional achievements won't be personal but in collaboration so they are not easy to predict.
LP - I'd like to study further artificial intelligence and especially autonomous learning and I think to go for a Ph.D. at a well known University from USA or Canada. We don't study this much in our country and the rate interest in this field is not very high . As professional achievements, I would like very much to take part in the building of an autonomous robot.
DA: Thank you for the kindness to answer my questions and I wish you good luck from now on!
e-mail address of the UNIBUC team is: firstname.lastname@example.org