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Chris Hopman, Zef RosnBrick, Dieter van Melkebeek and David Malec received an honorable mention at an international competition.[/media-credit]

While their fellow classmates were busy in Madison Feb. 5, three University of Wisconsin students were halfway around the world competing in a computer programming competition in China.

The competition — the International Collegiate Programming Contest — brought together 103 computer science teams from around the world in Harbin, China, with the team from UW earning an honorable mention. Medals were awarded to the top 13 places, while teams that finished 14-50 received honorable mention.

Team member Zef RosnBrick, a UW sophomore, said the competition lasted five hours and consisted of 10 problems. The teams must solve the problems by writing a program but are only given one computer to do so.

“The trickiest part of the competition besides the problems is that we only get one computer,” RosnBrick said. “So a big part of it is teamwork.”

Receiving honorable mention was a highlight for RosnBrick, but he said he felt the team could have earned higher honors.

“I think our team was definitely capable of doing better, so it’s too bad that we didn’t … but it was a great experience to be there,” he said.

Dieter van Melkebeek, UW computer sciences professor, said the team solved problem sets from previous competitions and did mock competitions lasting the full five hours in preparation.

Besides RosnBrick, the two other team members are David Malec and Chris Hopman, both graduate students who participated on the team last year.

As a newcomer to the team, RosnBrick said the experience of Malec and Hopman not only helped him learn more, but also calmed his nerves.

“I definitely learned a lot from their experience,” he said. “I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I think I would’ve been.”

Prior to the finals in China, the team participated in and won the regional competition that brought together teams from across the Midwest.

Van Melkebeek said the team has made it to the world finals every year since its inception in 2001, which speaks volumes for UW.

“Being able to compete at the world finals is an indication that we’re doing something right here,” he said. “I think it shows the level of quality we are offering.”