15-295: Competition Programming and Problem Solving, Fall 2015

In this course you will learn the techniques and skills needed to solve algorithmic programming contests problems such as those that appear on the ACM ICPC, Codeforces, and Topcoder. Most of your time will be spent writing programs on your own to solve problems.

Some students may go on to participate in the ACM ECNA regional event (which occurs in the fall) and possibly even the World Finals (which occurs in the spring).

But the skills you will pick up from the course are far more valuable than just enabling you to win contests. Many of the algorithms and techniques are classic ones that every computer scientist should know. You will also learn to think about algorithms in a deeper way, because many of the problems require you have to devise a new algorithm, not just apply a classic one. These skills will be of great value in your other classes, in your job interviews, and in your future work.

Basic Information

Class Meetings: Wednesdays from 6:30-9:30pm, Wean Hall 5421

Instructor: Danny Sleator sleator@cs.cmu.edu, Office: Gates 8113, Phone: (412) 268-7563

Teaching Assistant: Jakub Pachocki , Phone (TBA), Office (TBA)

Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/15-295 (Required)

Name List: Put your names here (Required)

Grade Spreadsheet: Tabulation of Scores


This course is 5 units. Each week you will be given several problems to try to solve during class. You will be allowed (for half credit) to solve these problems during the week after the contest ends. You can also get credit for solving problems during rated contests on Codeforces and Topcoder. (These sites run rated contests approximately every two weeks.)

Let me be more specific. Each problem that we give has some number of points between 1 and 3. Let X be the total number of points of the problems you solve in class. Let X' be the total number points of the problems you solve in the week after class. Let Y be the number of Codeforces problems you solve and let Z be the number of topcoder problems you solve. (Y and Z only count problems solved during rated contests.) Your score in the course is X + X'/2 + Y + Z.

Here is how your grade is determined:

score ≥ 25: A

score ≥ 15: B

score ≥ 10: C

score ≥ 5: D

There's one more twist to the system. If you've taken the class before, then you will not get credit for 1 point problems. You can still do them for fun, but you should be focusing on the harder problems.


Being on an ACM ICPC Team

We typically send five teams of three to the ACM ECNA regional event. This year it will take place on Saturday October 31 (Halloween). We drive to Youngstown on Friday afternoon, stay in a hotel, do the contest on Saturday, and return in the early evening on Saturday night.

The teams will be selected based on the results of two contests which will take place during regular class times on September 16th and September 23rd. I am only considering undergraduate students who are eligible to go to the World Finals (you can't go to the world finals more than two times). If you are interested in trying to be on a team, it is imperitive that you participate and do well in the two selection rounds on Sept. 16th and 23rd.

Danny Sleator
Last modified: Wed Sep 2 9:50:50 2015