Engineering students set for 'Battle of the Brains'

University Park, Pa. -- Four students will represent Penn State in the "Battle of the Brains," the regional round of the 33rd annual IBM-sponsored Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACP-ICPC) at Shippensburg University on Oct. 25.

Jeremy Bridon, Daniel Iachini, Kevin Mangold and John Montgomery will race against the clock to complete eight computer programming problems in a five-hour period. One hundred winners from regional competitions across the globe will qualify for the world finals in Stockholm, Sweden, in April 2009.

The competition evolved from a contest held at Texas A&M in 1970 and quickly caught on in the United States and Canada.

Steve Shaffer, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, has been a "Battle of the Brains" coach since 2003. This year, he selected the top four students from a spring 2008 computer programming course to represent Penn State.

Shaffer is hopeful about this year's competition.

"The last time, we narrowly missed out on placing in the region and moving on to the world finals," he said.

According to Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM Software Group and IBM's sponsorship executive for ACP-ICPC, the world finals are a big deal.

"We aggressively recruit employees from the competitions. It is an important investment in our partnership with academia," Heintzman said.

Aside from being an important networking opportunity, the World Finals is a cultural experience. Past competitions have taken place in Tokyo; San Antonio, Texas; Alberta, Canada; Prague; Pudong, China; and Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

In Stockholm, teams will use some of the same facilities as the Nobel Prize ceremony. Heintzman said the competitors might even be treated to some of the same entertainment as the Nobel Prize ceremony.

Heintzman believes the whole experience greatly benefits students and hopes to see the competition continue to grow.

"The entry alone is a big deal. It takes a passionate teacher, and a few bright, disciplined students," he said.

For more information on the ACP-ICPC, visit


Media Contacts: 
Last Updated March 19, 2009