The American Computer Science League All-Star Contest

Short version: I (my mom) paid $200 so that I could fly to Cincinnati, write 1 program, answer 12 multiple-choice question, play Axis & Allies for 8 hrs, and then fly back.

Long version:
So I skipped most of the 2nd day of DI training to catch a plane with the rest of the Taylor ACSL team (Senior 3 Team: me, fairley, and aditya; Intermediate 3 Team: frank, max, matt) and Mrs. Scherer to Cincinnati. The plane ride was fairly uneventful, though I did manage to “beat” Frank twice at chess. The first time, we didn’t finish, but I had a pretty big piece advantage when we had to pack up, and the second, I was actually behind a bishop and knight in the endgame when he fudged up and let me get a pawn across, whereupon he resigned. ‘Neways, we get there and get in our rental car to go to our hotel. It turns out that we have a Durango, which, with 7 ppl and various laptops, luggage, and other belongings, isn’t that big. We arrive at the hotel past 11:00 at night, whereupon we stay up for another 2ish hours watching family guy and hanging out. Frank, Fairley, and I go back to our room, where we, with none of us actually tired, lie in bed and talk for awhile. Around 4, Fairley comments that mebbe we should try to go to sleep.
We then wake up at 550 to get ready to go to contest. With 1 1/2 hr of sleep, we run to Lakota East High School or something. It was actually a pretty new school, with natural light and stadium-like basketball court (I don’t know what you call it, but it’s like a real court, not a school one; the court is sunk in the middle, while spectators can sit for several rows up on all sides.) The hallways actually have street names, and their auditorium had a broadway-like sign above it. It was a lot smaller than Taylor, however (in Ohio, it was considered a 2A school; dunno if it’s the same system), but obviously, a lot nicer.
Another little nifty thing about this contest is that while it is called ACSL, there were actually a couple teams from Romania, Croatia, and Canada. Apparently, them Eastern European countries consistently come in and own all the American teams up. Go figure.
So for the actual contest, it started when all the teams go to the auditorium and pick up the programming packets at the same time, whereupon we all read and work through the problems for about 1/2 hr without computers and have the opportunity to ask questions about the problems. We then run over to our room (each team has its own classroom to work in) and start programming the problems.
It was pretty easy.
See, for TCEA and local contests, we have 18 problems to do in 2 hrs. At this contest, we had, effectively, 3 hrs to do 4. And I had done some practice on programs from previous years, and figured them to be jokes. So, in the end, Aditya programmed 2, I did 1, and Fairley did the hard one, while we all sat around and wrote up test cases, since each program only gets one run to get all the correct outputs.
We actually tossed balls of paper into the trashcan and searched the classroom and stuff. We actually thought the room was that of a female teacher’s, since there were arts/crafts stuff (like yarn) in the drawers, and it was just kind of fruit-ily designed, but it turns out it was for a Male Football coach. Weird stuff. And apparently, they actually have real classes there, like 7 different types of history (can’t ‘member details, but it was obscure stuff, like sports history, no joke) and a meditation class and stuff.
Anyways, we finish with lots of time, though we had figured that we’d wait till the very end of the time, because it’d be better to just do test cases over and over since we only had one run for each program to work. Well, about 10 min before the end, I come up with a relatively unspecial case where one of our programs didn’t work (not really a trick case, per se, but the way that the program was written, it was a likely flaw). Unable to fix it, we go through grading, getting perfect scores on the first 3. On the very last problem, there was an amazing amount of tension as to whether the case would show up, but it didn’t. Thank goodness. Perfect score on programming (on a side note, while we thought programming was a joke, we were probably one of less than 5 teams in the entire competition, across all division, of 70ish teams that got a perfect score).
We have lunch, then go to the written, which was 12 multiple-choice questions about random topics that we “learned” over the year (the senior team was basically working off what we ‘membered from fishmen year when we learned it. And the practice we did for written involved 1-2 written tests on the plane, figured mentally). While none of the problems were hard, they were very tedious, like trying to find cycles on a graph (don’t ask; just know that there isn’t an easy way to do it. You have a rough mental tactic towards approaching it, but often, the algorithm often involves staring at the picture for awhile and hoping that you see something), working through recursive functions, and reading assembly. In the end, I got 9/12 (10/12 for my teammates) after some really stupid mistakes (-3-1=-2, 1+2+3+4+6+12=24). We came out of that pretty confident, and then just kind of hung out, walked around the school, etc for about an hour.
The award ceremony was pretty boring, as they first announced all the regional winners and stuff from over the year (a long string of names and schools). Next, they announced “high” scores on the written test, which went as low as 6-7/12, which resulted in a large majority of the kids getting some sort of award, which happened to be books (we weren’t allowed to choose; they assigned us books based on estimated skills lvls. I got a book called the “pragmatic programmer”). That took forever, and then they finally got around to the actual awards.
It was actually kind of funny, because they started with the “junior division”, which I guess must be some weird pre-cs lvl, because our CS1 kids start in intermediate. Anyways, we got a kick out of seeing some 9/10th graders getting owned by jr high kids. After that, they announced Intermediate 3, and our intermediate team won. We were pretty happy about that (you must understand, none of us really cared about ACSL, noted by the 1 1/2 hr of sleep and the lack of studying, so when we did well, it was kind of a “whatever”), seeing the lvl of preparation, and that a Taylor team, as far as I can determine by the records on the website, has never placed before. Regardless, they felt gypped when they gave the school a printer, instead of the PDAs they gave to each student last year. In the Intermediate 5 division, they Croatians owned (btw, they’re really loud. When they were announced, it was like a wolfpack, how they were howling and clapping).
In the Senior 3 division, things went pretty well. When they announced that 2nd place got 68 pts (if you haven’t done the math, as I assumed you haven’t, we got 69 pts, and knew that b4 the awards), I swear, we must have been happier than the team that got 2nd. Regardless, we went up for our award as well, which was pretty awesome. While I still don’t care about ACSL, it’s good for bragging rights. Unfortunately, they only gave 1 printer to each school, regardless of how many teams from that school won. Croatians owned Senior 5.
After that, we were in good spirits, sang happy birthday to Mr. C’s answering machine, and went back to the hotel. Oddly enough, I think we were feeling good more because we knew that we would get back to the hotel by 6, and that we didn’t have to wake up until 10 the next morning, and we had “Axis & Allies” with us (I also think that we were more excited about Axis & Allies than the actual ACSL competition). If you don’t know, A&A is kind of like Risk; ie, war game where you place troops in countries, attack other countries, roll dice, etc. Except it’s a lot more complicated (after playing it, it actually isn’t that complicated, for a game; it’s just a lot more involved than Risk. But mebbe that’s because I spend way too much time thinking about and playing various computer/board strategy games), as there are multiple types of troops, naval/air units, technology research, etc. ‘Neways, the game is split into 2 teams, with Britain, the US, and the USSR on one side, and Germany and Japan on the other. While it might sound unbalanced, the game starts in 1942, where Germany has France already, and Japan has basically all of SE Asia, so it turns out pretty okay. Me and Fairley had never played before, and the board starts kind of complicated, so we spend about an hour setting up and discussing rules before going to Fazolis for dinner.
Fazoli’s was interesting. I ended up splurging just a little, getting a “Freezi’s” Strawberry Smoothie something-or-other (it’s okay; I spent about $12 for the entire trip) and an oven-packed spaghetti. Unfortunately, they offered “bottomless” spaghetti/alfredo, which put Matt, Max, and Aditya into an eating contest. In the end, it was less-than-incredible, but still funny, as they backed out at 3 bowls each, calling what was basically a tie (Matt won on the breadsticks tiebreaker, however.)
Back to Axis & Allies. So we started playing, with the teams as Me(USSR), Max (US), and Fairley(Britain), and Aditya(Germany) and Matt(Japan). It was extremely slow, but it was a lot of fun, though we got owned in the end (which I can defend partially since Aditya kind of cheated due to general ignorance of the rules). We got to sleep around 4, and then left at 11 the next morning.
Other than kind of losing a laptop in an airport, the way back was kind of boring (we’re just hoping that Taylor High School on the bag and KISD on the laptop and the security on it will get it sent back), but we were all dead ‘neways.
And that’s that.

One thought on “The American Computer Science League All-Star Contest”

  1. “Another little nifty thing about this contest is that while it is called ACSL, there were actually a couple teams from Romania, Croatia, and Canada. Apparently, them Eastern European countries consistently come in and own all the American teams up. Go figure.”

    yeah, those eastern European countries like Canada…

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