The IEEE Computer Society Brac University Student Branch Chapter organized a seminar titled “Importance of Competitive Programming and an Introduction to IEEEXtreme” on June 8th, 2022. The seminar was focused on understanding the basics of competitive programming  as well as making the students aware of various coding contests around the world including the 24-hour long IEEEXtreme programming competition. This seminar turned out to be a successful event with more than 120 registrations and a participation of about 100 learners from Brac. 

Competitive coding has always been a crucial part of Computer Science. It helps a learner to get a better hold of the programming basics and contributes to making them a better problem solver. It is a skill which challenges enthusiasts to solve mathematical as well as logical problems by focusing on writing efficient code in a short amount of time. The problems may range at different levels and may be solved with or without the application of data structures and algorithms. To master the skill of competitive programming not only does one need to practice hard and on a regular basis but also understand the tricks and tips on how to get a better hold of it. 

The Chief Guest for the seminar was computer scientist, educator, author, and columnist, Dr. Mohammad Kaykobad who is currently serving as a Distinguished Professor at Brac University. He is a pioneer in introducing competitive programming to Bangladesh. He has inspired and encouraged students to participate in contests as competitive programmers for years. While serving as a professor in BUET, he led several teams from the university to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) and reached the finals multiple times. In the year 2000, a team led by him finished 11th in the world ranking at ICPC. Dr. Mohammad Kaykobad was awarded the Best Coach Award at the ACM ICPC Finals in 2002 and the Senior Coach Award at the ACM ICPC Finals in 2013 at St. Petersburg. Along with competitive programming he also initiated various olympiads on Math and Science in Bangladesh.

The event was also adorned by Ms. Shaily Roy, Lecturer, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Brac University as the Keynote Speaker. She is an ardent programming enthusiast and coordinates all the competitive programming activities at Brac. She has an experience of solving over 125 problems from UVA and over 500 problems from other online judges like Vjudge, Codeforces, Codechef, Hackerrank, Lightoj, A2oj, Hackerearth and so on. During her student days, she managed to participate and win various prizes at different programming competitions.

The first speaker for this 2-hour long seminar was Dr. Kaykobad. He took the stand and spoke about how programming competitions have been getting exceedingly important over the years as they ignite the spirit of the young programming enthusiasts. Progress is not visible unless there is a final reward and competitive programming provides the sense of achievement which further acts as a fuel for the coders. He then went on to say that the students must participate in multiple contests and express their peak potential. He diligently believes in the endless capabilities of the youth of Bangladesh and how much they have to offer. He further adds that teamwork may not always be the dream work, the willingness to try again is important. He then acknowledges the progress of our current programming teams and how far they have achieved. Leaving us on a motivating note, Dr. Kaykobad concludes that although circumstances might go adverse, we should always think of them as opportunities rather than drawbacks.

The motivation torch lit by Dr. Kaykobad is carried further by Shaily Roy. She started her speech with a fun coding problem and by the end of it she managed to take the audiences aback by showing a wondrous trick of solving a tricky problem in a never seen way, Magic, as she calls it. She provided a deeper insight into the field of programming competitions and the activities that were effective in Brac University to train the students enthusiastic about competitive programming. She advised and encouraged everyone to start competitive programming and participate in it irrespective of the stage they are in. She further says that in competitive coding it is just consistent problem solving and critical thinking that matters, not the language, be it C++, Python, or Java. “Practice, Practice, and Practice. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it for the fun of it. Critical thinking will help you excel in any field irrespective of what you choose to do. However, while all these go along, we must take care of our studies as academics are equally important”, she concludes.

By the end of the session, a Q/A was introduced where concerns from newbies, seniors, and active programmers were addressed. During that Q/A, concerns about having a dedicated programming lab were also raised by the students. With all the extended facilities Brac University already provides, including an active programming community, instructors, tutors, guidelines, and sponsorships, a programming lab will be the icing on the cake. All and all, the session was highly informative and enlightening as freshers tend to get highly confused about where or how, to begin with, programming. The in-depth information and insight by the instructors themselves will help them to pave the way in the field of Competitive Programming.