A computer programming team from the University of Rochester came in third in the regional final of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest this past weekend, behind MIT and Harvard. The northeast final was held at Rochester Institute of Technology and included 12 schools from upstate New York, New England, and eastern Canada.

The problems faced by the contestants may not be what a layperson would expect on a computer programming competition.

Problem 3: Filip's train
Filip is playing with his train. He has many straight track pieces of various lengths, and he has four identical and symmetric round track pieces that make the train turn by 90 degrees. Filip wants to build a loop (or, rather, a rectangle with rounded corners), using all his track pieces. Actually, he wants the loop to resemble a square (as much as possible). Help him!

The Rochester team solved 7 such problems in 15:25. MIT solved 8 problems in 19:13, while Harvard solved 8 problems in 19:23. Trailing Rochester in the standings were UMass Amherst, Colgate, RIT, Acadia University, Siena College, Dalhousie University, Memorial University, Middlebury College, and McGill.

"The teams were very strong this year," said Assistant Professor Daniel Stefankovic, who served as the Rochester coach. "And our team put up a world-class performance."

Rochester won the regional finals in 2009, earning a berth to the World Finals in Harbin, China. Last year, the team came in 4th in the regional competition.

The Rochester team this year was made up of Josh Pawlicki, Darcey Riley, and Sean Tang.

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is sponsored by IBM and operated under the auspices of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. This year 24,915 contestants on 8,305 teams representing 2,070 universities from 88 countries competed in the regional competitions. The World Finals will be held next May in Warsaw, Poland.