Out of 20 competing teams, Northern Michigan University’s team Nullzilla took first place at the Ninth Annual Northern Michigan University Invitational Programming Contest on Saturday, March 29.
The competition, held from noon to 5 p.m. in Jamrich Hall, consisted of 54 students representing five universities: Algoma University College, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Technological University, The University of Michigan-Flint and NMU. Members formed teams of three.
The three members of this year’s team, consisting of: junior, computer science major Brian Krent, senior computer science major, Scott Raiford and senior computer science major Ben DePew, competed in the same contest last year, as well as the last official regional Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) contest.
Krent said this was the third time he participated in the NMU competition, which consists of six computer science problems to be solved over a five-hour period with the use of only one laptop per team. He added that experience contributed to the team’s win.
“In terms of team Nullzilla preparing for the contest, I’d say that this year’s preparation was primarily based on experience of programming contests of years past,” Krent said.
Raiford said he was especially happy about the win, since a Northern team hadn’t won since 2005.
Although they have worked together as a team before, one member of Nullzilla played an important role in this year’s competition, said DePew.
“Scott Raiford completed most of the programs for our team, so he was the key to our success,” he said.
Krent agreed with DePew, stating that a win might not have been possible without Raiford’s programming skills.
“Scott really performed above and beyond this time around,” said Krent. “That isn’t to downplay the team effort, but I must say I am quite proud of Scott for some of the feats he managed to accomplish this time around.”
However, Raiford gave credit to the team as a whole, saying he couldn’t have done nearly as well without his teammates.
“During the contest, several of the programs we completed were started by Ben, written by me, and fixed by Brian,” he said. “We make a very good team.”
Although Nullzilla placed first among the teams, NMU received second place to Michigan Tech in overall awards. The number of problems completed, submission and penalty times and tiebreaker scores were taken into account when tabulating final scores.
Both Nullzilla and second-place Team Mik, the one-person team from Michigan Tech, completed all six problems. However, the win went to Nullzilla, who finished 92 minutes ahead of Team Mik and therefore earned more points.
Andrew Poe, longtime faculty sponsor of the event and associate professor of mathematics and computer science at NMU, said this year’s contest was the best by far, especially because of the willingness of students to help out.
“This was a tradition I started at NMU in 2000, and I’m proud to see it’s still going strong,” Poe said.
Krent said that while the competition was fun, it also gave valuable experience.
“To me, it’s really about the experience and enjoyment of the event itself, not necessarily winning or losing,” Krent said.