Harvard Computer Team Wins Regional Programming Contest

Harvard has produced champions on the football grid and hockey rink.

Now Harvard may be victorious on the computer terminal, if a four man team that won a regional programming contest last week repeats its performance in an international competition next February.

The first-ever squad, formed by McKay Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis '68. led a pack of 25 schools in the Northeast regionals at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

Harvard's team completed three of its as signed four programs in a six hour time period while the second place RPI squad completed only two Richard P. Draves '85 said yesterday that the team was very relaxed, only practicing one program together before the contest and working without the aid of notes or books, which rules allowed.

Two of the programs, one requiring the contestants to print out a banner and another asking for a calculator program, were relatively easy and were more like "typing contests," said competitor Mark Lentczner '84.

The other two, a program asking contestants to arrange two columns of words in newspaper fashion, and another requiring a reordering of a series of points into a polygon, were much more difficult, said team member Gary W. Sabot '85.

The members, each taking one program, were loose throughout the competition--Sabot said that at one point they ordered a pizza--and eventually won a first-place plaque which they presented to couch Lewis last week during his computer science class.

"I hope we can keep our cool in the internationals too," Lentezner said, adding that neither the team nor Lewis are sure of the rules of that competition.

"I don't think there's anything we can do to prepare except to prepare as a team," said member Jeffrey S. Baron '86.

Since the contest tests basic programming skills, Sabot said there are no benefits in planning any strategy. "We'll probably take the international more seriously," he added. "I'd like to win."

No rigorous training sessions will take place, though, because, Sabot said. "We all take computer classes, so it's not like we're going to get rusty."

Lewis said he decided to form the team in mid-October after receiving a letter from-the competition's sponsor, the Association for Computing Machinery.

Lewis said he received about fifteen responses after placing a news item in the computer terminal.

Lewis narrowed the team to the required four members by judging which students had the best knowledge of Pascal, a computer programming language, and which had "the speed and talent" necessary for competition, he said.

The competition began in the late 1960's and is open to any college with a computer science program affiliated with the ACM, a professional society of computer scientists