ACES

It’s 7.30 in the morning. After a tiring train trip and a journey by tuk with a very light breakfast, we finally arrived at the University of Peradeniya. Why were we in Peradeniya you ask? Because it’s home to ACES Coders, one of the biggest coding competitions in the country. As with prior years, it was an intense competition that lasted the whole weekend. Here’s what we saw at ACES Coders 6.0.

It all begins with a Spark

As we arrived at the University of Peradeniya we saw a large crowd of school children there. They were all here to participate in Spark. In case you’re lost, Spark is an Inter School Quiz Competition is organized by ACES to provide experience and knowledge to the school children on computer engineering aspects. By 8.40 AM, we saw students from various schools having taken their seats and the proceedings kicking off with the lighting of the traditional oil lamp.

Following the lighting of the oil lamp, Supun Athukorala – President of ACES took the stage. He proceeded to give a speech introducing us to ACES and why they organized Spark at the University of Peradeniya. As Supun describes, “At Spark 2016, you’ll discover what computer engineering is all about.”

School children at ACES Spark (Image credits: Ashwin Jayalath)
School children at ACES Spark (Image credits: Ashwin Jayalath)

After a brief video following Supun’s speech, we saw Dhammika Elkaduwe- Department head of Engineering of the University of Peradeniya took the stage. His speech was more focused towards motivating the audience of school children to achieve great things. He stated that as a country we don’t have valuable natural resources but we have skilled people. He went on to say, “I know it’s a challenging world for all you students. But it’s not just about those A’s and B’s. This program will give you insights into what’s out there in the field of computer engineering.”

Following Dhammika’s speech, we saw Udana Wijeratne from ShipXpress take the stage. He spoke about how ShipXpress supports innovation and about software. When it comes to software, he reminded us that there’s no such thing as being bug-free. To quote Udana, “It may not have bugs today, but it surely will have bugs tomorrow.” He concluded his speech by encouraging everyone in the audience to dream and be entrepreneurs.

Students working on the microcontrollers with their mentor at ACES Spark (Image credits: Ashwin Jayalath)
Students working on the microcontrollers with their mentor at ACES Spark (Image credits: Ashwin Jayalath)

After Udana’s speech, we had a short break. When we returned, it was time for the Arduino programming session. The session started with basic concepts about microcontrollers before slowly progressing towards various theories in physics. Soon after, we saw the first practical session for the day. The teams from each school had to make a simple microcontroller with the support of their mentors. The first three teams that completed their microcontrollers got a free Arduino board. At the end of the session, the winning teams were:

  • Ranabima Royal College
  • St. Anthony’s College
  • Mahanama College

Following the practical session, it was time for lunch. After lunch, the main event began. The teams now have to complete a 30-minute quiz. To say it was intense for the students might have been an understatement. Nonetheless, the thirty minutes passed by quickly. Before we knew it, the award ceremony had begun. And the winning teams were:

  • Gampola Zahira College
  • Mahanama College Kandy
  • Peradeniya Central College
  • Girls High School
  • Ranabima Royal College
  • Kingswood College
  • Anne’s College
  • Chandananda College

The 12 hour ACES coding marathon

Fast forward to 4.30pm in the evening, the school children had left the University of Peradeniya. Inside its halls were now undergraduates from universities all across the island. They were here for an even more rigorous competition that would last 12 hours. They were for the ACES Coders competition.

A glimpse of the sheer scale of ACES Coders v6.0 (Image credits: Menaka Jayawardena)
A glimpse of the sheer scale of ACES Coders v6.0 (Image credits: Menaka Jayawardena)

The competition began with a series of speeches. The first speech was by Supun Athukorala -President of ACES who was followed by Dhammika Elkaduwe- Head of the Computer Engineering Department at the University of Peradeniya. Dhammika in his speech highlighted how students from all over the country come for aces coders. In fact, this year saw 14 teams come from as far as Jaffna.

Following Dhammika’s speech, Pr. Leelananda Rajapakse, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Peradeniya addressed the crowd. His speech was focused on the journey of our local industry which struggled and prospered on its own despite little support from the outside world. His speech was followed by speeches from representatives of ShipXpress and Millennium IT.

With the speeches over it was now time for the ACES Coders competition to begin. How does this competition work? It’s fairly simple really. Teams are given access to HackerRank (one login per team of course). Throughout the 12 hours, questions will be put up on the site in which the teams will have to solve and submit their code. Based on the submitted answers points will be given and each team will be ranked. Multiple questions can be answered by the same team. There is no hard and fast rule stating questions should be answered in order and should only be one at a time.

The teams at work (Image credits: Menaka Jayawardena)
The teams at work (Image credits: Menaka Jayawardena)

And so the teams began solving problems and coding into the night. It was not until 8 AM the very next day that all the team had finished solving the problems. Following a few speeches, it was time for the awards ceremony.

And so the top 10 teams at ACES Coder 6.0 were:

  • Team Bytecode – University of Peradeniya
  • Team Brute force – University of Moratuwa
  • Team Blizzards – University of Peradeniya
  • Team Codebros – University of Peradeniya
  • Team Ouch – University of Moratuwa
  • Team Void – University of Colombo School of Computing
  • BC coders – University of Moratuwa
  • Antimatters – University of Moratuwa
  • Intelligent – University of Moratuwa
  • G-Unit from University of Moratuwa

And so with the awards having been distributed, ACES Coders 6.0 came to an end. Another successful event at the University of Peradeniya came to a close. With that, it was time for us to pack our bags, say our goodbyes and return to Colombo for this story to be written. For now, it’s back to attending similar events like this in Colombo. Until the next ACES, that is, which we expect will be bigger and better.

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