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Battle of the Brains Software Competition

The 32nd annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM ) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) kicked off this month. The IBM sponsored competition, also known as the "Battle of the Brains," challenges students around the globe to solve real-world computer programming problems using open-source technology under a grueling five-hour deadline.

The contest pits teams of three university students against eight or more complex, real-world problems using a single computer. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of the problems, deduce the requirements, design test beds, and build software systems that solve the problems under the intense scrutiny of expert judges. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms.

The students are given a problem and an example of test data, but they do not have access to the judges' test data and acceptance criteria. Each incorrect solution submitted is assessed a time penalty. The team that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts in the least cumulative time is declared the winner.

Regional bouts run from September through December, with only 90 teams from around the globe reaching the World Finals, which will be held next April 6-10 in Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada.

The Battle of the Brains has grown to be the largest and most prestigious computer competition of its kind. It is expected to include tens of thousands of students from universities in 82 countries on six continents. Since IBM began sponsoring the Contest in 1997, participation has grown from 1,100 to 6,100 teams.

The 2007 ACM-ICPC World Finals took place in Tokyo last March, where the team from Warsaw University in Poland emerged as the world champion.

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