Industry teams will dominate the BCS Programming Competition final for the first time in the event's 21-year history after the most closely fought and highest quality regional heats for years.
A good mix of industry and university teams have got through to the final but this year there are more teams of working IT professionals than of students.
Four of the 40-plus teams completed five problems - an unusually high number - and three more completed four tasks. A good number completed two or three problems.
The competition is for teams of up to five people, including a team manager, who solve problems against the clock. This year most teams used Java, with C++ as the next most popular language.
Eleven teams got through to the final on 16 April.
Industry is represented in the final by IBM's Hursley Laboratory, software and services company Boss Computing, systems and services company Capula, computer games specialist Creative Assembly, and software consultancy Edgespace.
In addition, there is a team of people working in IT who studied together at London's Imperial College, and a two-man team of Manchester University graduates, one working for a PhD and the other now in industry.
Both these teams completed five problems in the heats. The other team to do so was one of two from the University of East Anglia, which also achieved the highest score in the heats. Teams are ranked by the number of problems completed and then by the shortest elapsed time.
Past participants have praised the competition as a chance for students to compete against IT professionals and as a teamwork and management training exercise for working IT specialists - especially as teams have only one PC to work with.
Ryan Sherlock of Edgespace said, "Edgespace values technical excellence, and we decided that participating in such competitions would be a great way to keep our fundamental computer science skills sharp. We learned a lot in the heats this year and hope to perform well in the final."
Sherlock competed for two years as a member of the team from Trinity College Dublin, where he helped to organise programming competitions at the college.
BCS chief executive David Clarke said, "The Programming Competition has been running for over 20 years to provide a fun arena for practitioners to demonstrate their programming prowess. It promises a challenging and entertaining opportunity for programmers to compete with their peers on equal terms."
This year's competition is sponsored by IBM and Microsoft.
Programming Competition finalists:
IBM Hursley Laboratory
Former Manchester University students
Former Imperial College students
Trinity College Dublin
University of East Anglia
University of East Anglia 2.
The final will take place on 16 April.
This was first published in April 2005