Industry makes a strong challenge for coding cup

Industry teams have won three of the five heats in the 18th annual BCS Programming Competition - putting IT companies well in the...

Industry teams have won three of the five heats in the 18th annual BCS Programming Competition - putting IT companies well in the reckoning to beat universities in the final for the first time in four years, writes John Kavanagh.

Five of the 14 finalists come from IT suppliers, despite the fact that industry teams made up less than a third of the 43 entrants for the regional heats.

In a tough competition, only one team, from security and anti-virus specialist McAfee, completed three problems. All the other heat winners managed only two problems. Among the runners-up, only Cisco Systems, also a finalist last year, managed more than one - and it was a lot faster than the other heat winners.

Glasgow University, which won the final last year, demonstrated its ambition to repeat the achievement this year. Its team won the Scotland heat and, with an elapsed time of four hours and 15 minutes, was more than three hours ahead of most other challengers.

IBM's Hursley Laboratory got one of its two teams through as heat winner, although the two IBM UK teams failed to make the final.

Socket Systems, a UK network software specialist which has entered the competition for the first time, won its heat. The other heat winner was York University.

The final line up is Cisco Systems; Glasgow University; one of two IBM Hursley teams; Imperial College, London; McAfee; one of two teams from St Helens College; Sheffield University; Socket Systems; Southampton University; Sussex University; the University of East Anglia; the University of Wales, Swansea; York University; and a team combining computer-aided design software developer Zuken, PC games specialist Codemasters and storage system company Eurologic. They will contest the final on 23 March.

This line-up leaves some big names by the wayside, including University College London, which came third in the final last year, and City, Dundee, Kent, Leeds, Newcastle and Strathclyde Universities.

The BCS Programming Competition is open to teams of up to five people, including a team manager, aged 18 or over. Teams solve problems against the clock, using Java or Visual C/C++.

The event tests management as well as programming skills, not least because each team has only one computer.

All participants receive a limited-edition T-shirt. The winning team gets the competition trophy, and individual champion team members get prizes, BCS engraved shields and certificates. Regional winners also get prizes.

The competition is being sponsored by IT services group EDS and is supported by E-Competitions, a UK body led by the E-Skills National Training Organisation and the Department for Education and Skills, which acts as the focus for IT competitions and award schemes that support education and training, from primary school to industry level.

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