Wellesley College Computer Science Students Take First Place in Programming Competition

May 2, 2013

On April 12, the Wellesley College Programming Team, comprising Emily Erdman ‘13, Michelle Ferreirae ‘13, and Erin Davis ‘14, won first place in a programming competition at the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Northeastern Region (CCSCNE) annual conference.

“This is the first time that an all-women team has won this contest, so this is a really big deal,” said Professor Franklyn Turbak, associate professor of computer science. The competition has been held for the past 13 years. This year's field included 33 teams from 30 different schools. 

Teams were given a computer and three hours to tackle six separate programming problems. Ferreirae explained how the Wellesley team approached the problems.

"They handed us a packet of six problems and sent us off to our rooms to compete. We continued with the divide-and-conquer approach throughout the competition; we were usually working on two or three problems at once, and we would help each other as necessary when we had trouble solving a particular problem. We had heard a rumor that another team had solved all six problems, so we weren't expecting to win at all. They announced the results at the conference banquet that night." Erdman, Ferreirae, and Davis, it turned out, were the only team to solve five out of the six problems correctly.

Turbak has high hopes for future competitions, including a bigger contest sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) which will be held this fall.

There's no official team uniform, but Turbak said, "The Wellesley team also dazzled the competition with their sparkling blue hats." According to Davis, "The blue sparkly hats originally came from our Computer Security class, for 'black hat' and 'white hat' hacking, but Wellesley style, they're blue hats. Now they've become our signature accessory and we will have to pass them down to future Wellesley CS students."

Computer science has been growing in popularity as a major at Wellesley for the past several years. The department offers a broad and complete curriculum that covers the "big ideas" of computer science from hardware to software and from application to theory.