Computing Club Beats MIT, Wins Major Competition

Roll out the red carpet for the Harvard Computing Contest Club, which bounced back from its sixth-place finish last year in a major regional competition to win this year’s installment of the contest on Saturday in Rochester, N.Y.

After finishing first out of 13 teams—including rival MIT—at the 2002 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest’s Northeastern regional competition, the club’s reward is a March trip to the ACM’s World Finals in Beverly Hills, Calif.

There, during the same week that Beverly Hills hosts the Academy Awards, Harvard’s top techies will compete against about 65 other teams for college computer supremacy and a $10,000 prize.

“Last year it was in Hawaii, so we felt a bit disappointed about missing that,” said club member Vladimir Novakovski ’04, one of the winning team’s three members. “But this trip to California might make up for it. We might even get a chance to see some celebrities.”

The annual regional competition challenges teams with eight programming problems that must be solved within five hours.


Novakovski said this year’s questions—which included asking students to design programs that could solve mathematical problems such as optimizing the area of a shape—were “especially difficult.”

MIT, the winner of last year’s regional competition, finished in third place this year behind Harvard and Canada’s University of New Brunswick.

Harvard’s computing coach, former computer science Lecturer Robert L. Walton, said this year’s squad was blessed by both talent and good fortune.

“You have to be both good and lucky to win these competitions,” Walton said. “Last year’s team was bitten by bad luck. This year’s team was not.”

Novakovski, an economics concentrator in Winthrop House, was the team’s only returning member.

His two partners, Gregory N. Price ’06 and Thomas L. Widland ’06, earned their spots on the team last month by finishing first and second in an open contest held by the Computing Contest Club.

Walton said the team is one of the club’s youngest in memory.

Price said he is “very excited” to be headed to the West Coast as part of the team.

“I get to work with some very sharp colleagues,” he said.