Remember how we said that most hackathons and code competitions are Colombo-centric? Well, there’s always the rare exception. This time, we found ourselves in Kandy: more specifically Peradeniya: even more specifically the University of Peradeniya.
Each year, this magnanimous university hosts what they claim is the largest coding competition in the country. Titled “Aces Coders’, the event is organized by the Association of Computer Engineering Students (ACES) of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Peradeniya and brings together the brightest students from both local and private universities for a 12 hour coding competition.
This year Aces Coders V5.0 was held in University premises on the 13th of June, kicking off at 7pm to finish at 7am the next day. Despite multiple setbacks including lack of train tickets and buses, we (Enosh and myself), located an A/C Express Bus and set our sights on Peradeniya.
This year over 100 teams from 25 universities took part – over 300 students. Waruna Chandimal President of the ACES delivered the welcome speech followed by Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwa, Head of Computer Engineering Department and Prof. Leelananda Rajapakse, Dean, Faculty of Engineering. The main sponsor ShipXpress and Strategic partner MilleniumIT also delivered speeches and presentations. The event had some pretty big names behind it such as ShipXpress (Platinum sponsor), MilleniumIT (Strategic partner), Atrenta and IFS (Silver sponsors) and Hutch (Internet Partner). We set ourselves up and got ready for the long night. Kudos to Hutch for powering our Internet, more specifically the Day and Night Internet package which powered us throughout the hackathon.
After words of encouragement and best wishes, the teams took to their allocated tables for the competition to begin. Armed with their laptops and the occasional keyboard and mouse, the teams were tasked with developing a solution for a set of questions hosted online via a HackerRank portal.
Questions were categorized by difficulty, level of logic required and the algorithms required to solve the problem. By around 10pm, a total of 4 questions had been put forth, with 1 each from ShipXpress and MIT and the remainder from the organizing committee. Over the course of the competition we counted a grand total of 14 questions asked (1from ShipXpress, 3 from MIT and 10 from the Organizers).
The devil was indeed in the details and it definitely in the details when it comes to answering these questions. Despite all efforts taken to answer a question, if the answer provided was incorrect, a negative time of 15 minutes (preset by the organizers) was added to the teams’ overall score. So if they took an hour to answer a question, and it’s wrong, their overall score is one hour and fifteen minutes. The team who has the lowest overall time score is the winner. After all, they did spend the least amount of time answering the questions compared to their competitors.
Speaking of competition, teams ranged from the following Universities:
On screen, there were also several videos ranging from customer testimonials of sponsors to sponsor adverts and everything in between. The teams used it as a means of subtle distraction to refresh their minds and get cracking again.
As the night progressed, teams sat huddled over their laptops, yawning, bleary-eyed but determined to finish their tasks, fueled by copious amounts of Nescafe and bottles of water that seem to magically appear when someone needs them. In addition. ShipXpress had set up a small demo/game corner with a projector and screen hooked up to a Nintendo Wii which played a game of Tennis. True enough it may seem a tad late in the night for a game of tennis, but who are we to judge?
We left the coders to do what they do best and rather made our way to the lodging that the University had prepared for us. The ride was like no other. Picture a van with 9 people making its way up a road carved out of the mountain. The only thing between us and a plunging fall is the skill of the driver who was, thankfully very skilled in maneuvering the vehicle. The lodging was literally a bungalow and being one, offered plenty of rooms and space. We picked out a room for ourselves, changed, bid each other good night and settled in for a bit of sleep (a bit being approximately three hours and twenty minutes).
Arriving safe and sound at the University, we made our way to the hall for the last part of the competition. Eleven hours and twenty minutes had passed and the teams have been diligently answering questions and were now in a bit of a rush to get their answer sorted. The organizers too were feeling the pinch as they were running up and down checking up on teams and making sure that everything is ready for the final award ceremony. No clue was offered as to who was heading the leaderboard, so after a hearty Sri Lankan breakfast (string hoppers, potato curry and pol sambol), the teams and ourselves were pleasantly refreshed and ready for day two. We headed to the E.O.E Pereira Memorial Hall for the final awards and closing ceremony.
Dr Roshan Ragel came on stage to deliver his speech. Taking us down memory lane, he explained about the competition and its inception. As for the current competition, a total of 65% or 9 questions had been solved by all the teams, with 54 correct submissions. He ran through a list of the questions that were asked.
Next up was a member of ShipXpress and of MilleniumIT, and finally it was time for the awards, starting off with Participation certificates awarded to the teams with a representative from each team.
Now the moment that we’d all waited for. The announcement of the winners.
Well, that was that. With the vote of thanks delivered by the Secretary of ACES, Ninada Perera, Aces Coders v5.0 officially drew to a close. A few photographs were taken in the faculty grounds. It was at that point that I was told that the entire university spans 600 acres. Now that’s a lot of real estate to work with.
We bid farewell to the organizers and those who helped and made our way to the town of Kandy in order to take the bus back home.
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