UCSD Undergraduates Simma and Dorsett Win Spring 2004 Programming Contest

IBM contest
IBM supplied its CodeRuler contest environment for the UCSD programming competition

San Diego, CA, May 4, 2004 -- Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) seniors Alex Simma and Stefan Dorsett bested more than 120 other students who showed up on May 1 to compete in a software version of the BattleBot contest at the University of California, San Diego. In this case, each team had only five hours to program their 'software bot,' using a predefined Java API environment called CodeRuler from IBM, and test it locally on their machines and in a global test environment against other teams' bots. Then they entered a series of elimination rounds in a contest environment. "Each team programmed a software bot to compete head-to-head with other teams, and the specific environment and type of bot was kept secret until the contest," said Brad Calder, associate professor in CSE and the organizer of the event. "Each team had to build a basic bot, but to win, its strategy had to be superior to that of its opponents."

The rules of CodeRuler were straight-forward. Each team started off with one castle and a set of knights and pawns. Pawns could claim land, and the more land you have the more points you get at the end of the battle and the faster you create new pieces. Knights are used to capture other teams' castles, and to destroy other teams' pawns and knights. In addition, the more castles a team captured, the faster new pawns and knights were created and the more points the team got.

After all the final software bots were submitted, a qualifying contest was run where 65 CodeRuler teams competed for the top 18 spots in the finals. Six teams competed against each other at a time on the battlefield, racking up points for capturing castles, claiming land, and destroying pawns and knights. Three qualifying rounds were run, with each team competing once per round. At the end of the qualifying contest, the 18 teams with the most points went on to the finals. The finals were then run for five rounds to determine the top 10 teams for the cash prizes, including the top prize of $1,000 for each of the top-placing team members.

Simma and Dorsett entered the contest as "Team Nicely Inconspicuous Ford," and edged out the second-place Team XXX_420_XXX of James Heffron and Gunny Lee, with a razor-thin margin in total points of 15,996 to 15,984. Rounding out the top five teams in the May 1 competition were Thomas Hsieh and Kevin Lee (Team PWN) in third place, Scott Benner and Andrew Wood (Team Code Ninja) in fourth, followed in fifth place by Bekki Hui and Nick Butko (Team The BURNINATOR). (For all finalists' scores, go to www-cse.ucsd.edu/users/calder/UCSDProgramContest/results/.)


Mike Dini of the The Dini Group (www.dinigroup.com) sponsored the contest, providing roughly $6,000 for prizes, food and drinks. Michel Van Biesbrouck set up and ran the software for the contest with support from Jeremy Lau and John Bellardo, who also helped answer questions from the teams. Others involved in staging the event included Jack Pham, John Rapp, Stefan Schoenmackers, Jena Calder, and Geoff Voelker, as well as Tim deBoer and John Clevenger from IBM.

Doug Ramsey, (858) 822-5825, dramsey@ucsd.edu