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The Battle of the Brains is coming, and the University of Illinois will take part.

Sukolsak Sakshuwong is a junior studying computer science from Bangkok, Thailand. He won a full scholarship from the Thai government to study computer science here.

From May 27 to 31, his UI team will be in Orlando, Fla., one of 105 world finalist teams to compete in the 35th Annual World Finals of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest.

Sakshuwong said he's excited, but also nervous, about the competition.

"I think teams from China and Eastern Europe such as Russia are very strong teams. They have always done excellent work," he said. "I think the best thing about the ICPC is the fact that we have people around the world who share the same interest in getting together and trying to solve problems.

"There are also activities that enable us to get to know each other, exchange knowledge and travel together, not just compete with each other."

The Battle of the Brains pits teams of three university students against eight or more complex, real-world problems, with a five-hour deadline. The students share a computer.

Sponsored by IBM, the contest dates back to a competition held at Texas A&M in 1970. Headquartered at Baylor University since 1989, the contest has expanded into a global network of universities hosting regional competitions that advance teams to the ACM-ICPC World Finals.

Arindam Saha, a senior majoring in computer science from Kolkata, India, said the UI team won easily at regionals, but is wary of China.

"I love solving algorithmic problems and the fact that three of us are given just one computer and five hours to solve about 10 problems, makes the competition a lot of fun," he said.

The competitors also face a clock.

Rohan Sharma, a computer science sophomore from Bangalore, India, said "solving non-trivial problems and implementing these solutions in a limited amount of time is exciting; seeing how other experienced competitors do it is a good learning experience."

Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for the IBM Software Group and sponsorship executive for the contest, is enthusiastic about the students — he says gold medalists get an automatic IBM job offer.

"These are some of the very best and brightest," he said. "Computers are their tools that help them solve very challenging problems."

He said the competitors could work with mathematics series problems, geometry or physics.

"But all the problems are dressed up in a real world scenario. They might be asked to find a port of entry for a container ship, schedule it, map capacity, when the containers have to be loaded in a certain order, and design an optimal design for the port."

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Reporter (retired)

Paul Wood retired as a reporter in 2019 after 38 years with The News-Gazette.

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