Brain Brawl


A group of three students and a coach from the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction recently participated in a regional brain brawl competition with hopes of competing at the international level in the future.

But with a young team lacking experience, UNF came in last place, failing to correctly answer the two questions it attempted, said Behrooz Seyed-Abassi, associate professor of computer and information systems.

“The other schools were more experienced – many times bringing three or more teams,” Seyed-Abassi said.

The 2008 Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest Southeast USA regional brain brawl competition was hosted at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, where 65 teams representing various universities from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi competed for five hours.

In a large room shared with 20 other teams, UNF surrounded a table and a computer.

Communication devices were strictly prohibited, and the team was allowed to bring a stack of paper no bigger than two inches in height with all possible notes it could write.

The competition pits teams of three students against each other to solve complex real-world analytical problems using all facets of advanced mathematics including physics, geometry, logic and computer programming, Seyed-Abassi said.

The problems would take most students several weeks to solve and are solved in one afternoon,
he said.

Incorrect answer submissions resulted in a time penalty, so there was a constant check and re-check system teams used while figuring solutions, Seyed-Abassi said.

Senior computer science major Gien Carlo said the team chose problems it felt it had the best chance of solving.

He felt the problems were harder than some two-week homework assignments he received, Carlo said.

The challenge of solving some of these problems can be akin to formulating an effective design for a working airport that efficiently transports a number of people to various destinations in one afternoon, said Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for the IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive of ICPC.

“The reality is there are some enormous challenges this planet faces,” Heintzman said. “It is going to take some very bright problem solvers to help make the world a better place and we better celebrate as much as we do baseball players and athletes … these people have an opportunity to make an impact and it’s important to shine a bright light on them.”

E-mail Jonathan Morales at [email protected].