The world's largest International IntercollegiateProgramming Contest ICPC

The University of Aizu Continues to Achieve Results at the ICPC Asian Regional Conference

ICPC stands for "International Collegiate Programming Contest" and is known as the largest and most prestigious intercollegiate programming competition in the world. In 1977, the first final competition, which became the prototype for today's winner-takes-all contests, was held in conjunction with ACM for the first time. ACM is the 'Association for Computing Machinery', the world's largest computer science society, founded in 1947, mainly in the United States. Ten years later, in 2007, the number of universities had more than tripled and the number of teams had approximately tripled to 1,821 universities and 6,700 teams. The event has become a global phenomenon.

"The University of Aizu first competed in the ICPC in 1998, when the Asian Regional Competition were first held in Japan," said Teacher Yutaka Watanabe, who coaches and organizes the ICPC teams at the University of Aizu. A graduate of the University of Aizu himself, Watanabe participated in the ICPC Asian Regional Competition for the first time as a player in 2002, when he entered graduate school, and again in 2003, and since then he has participated as a coach, guiding the players. I was originally recommended to participate in the ICPC by my instructor at the time, but it was through participating as an athlete that I came to understand the significance of holding the ICPC. This was a very big event for me."

The University of Aizu has been participating in the Asian Regional Competition for 23 consecutive years since the first event in Japan in 1998. This record is held by only four universities in Japan: the University of Aizu, Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Waseda University, and it is extremely rare for a small, regional public university to have made consecutive appearances. "In order to compete and achieve success, we need to attract the best students and train them to become capable athletes. The team is made up of three students, but faculty members act as coaches to build the team, register them for the competition, and lead them to compete. In other words, unless there is a faculty member who can serve as a coach for many years, it is difficult for the team to compete, and it is only when the players and the coach work together that the team is able to compete."

The Asian Regional Competition in 2003.

The path to the ICPC World Championships

In April 2009, seven years after Teacher Watanabe's first appearance, the University of Aizu, after winning the Asian Regional Competition, made its long-awaited first appearance at the World Competition held in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. A total of 100 strong teams won the fierce regional competitions that were held in various parts of the world. Yuki Hirano (then a second-year master's student), Takashi Tayama (then a fourth-year student), Nobuyuki Wachi (then a fourth-year student), and their coach Teacher Watanabe, all members of the University of Aizu's "Watch.c" team, competed against these strong teams. The team continued to make rapid progress, achieving a 49th place finish in its first competition, a feat that puts it in the top 50 best in the world.

The University of Aizu's competing teams have continued to perform remarkably well, and in 2016 and 2017, they competed in the World Championships for two consecutive years, setting a record of 27th place at the 2020 World Championships, their highest ranking to date, and showing the world what the University of Aizu is capable of. The driving force behind this record was Akira Nakamura, who was in his third year at the University at the time. In this way, outstanding students have been active on the world stage. I am sure that one day I would like to win a medal," said Nakamura. Medals are awarded to the top four teams in each of the gold, silver, and bronze medals, so my goal is to finish in the top 12, and if possible, in the top 10," he said. Teacher Watanabe is looking forward to achieving even greater heights in the future.

Looking back over the past 20 years since his first entry in the ICPC, Teacher Watanabe says, "I am very happy to have been able to participate in the ICPC. The difficulty level of the ICPC questions has become incomparably higher now than it was 20 years ago. When I was a player, I could prepare for it by acquiring some knowledge of computer science algorithms and such, but that is not the case now. With the times, we can expect the problems to become even more difficult than they are now. The number of people studying information science and programming is expected to continue to increase, and the number of competitors will continue to grow. The question is whether we will be able to create new ones or not.

A member of the team "Watch.c", which finished 49th in the world competition.

ICPC results show the strength of the University of Aizu

"I have always believed that the ICPC is the measure of a university's ability to compete in a world competition of programming skills under strict rules, facing the same problems in the same environment. Programming is the essence of computer science." The ICPC programming contest involves solving problems using mathematics and algorithms, and then programming the solution to find the correct answer. The ICPC is a showcase for the quality of education at the participating universities. However," continued Teacher Watanabe, "the ICPC is a stage where the quality of education at the competing universities can be showcased. It is not a competition where anyone can get to the top if they work hard; the sense of the student is the most important thing. As mentioned earlier, coaches also play an important role in educating and nurturing students, but at the same time, it is a real problem that unless talented students and students with potential are gathered, they will not be able to win the competition."

Every year, Teacher Watanabe is enthusiastic about scouting newcomers to the University of Aizu, introducing new students to the ICPC's Asian regional and world championships in order to find talented individuals among interested students, polish their qualities, and nurture them into athletes. He emphasizes how difficult it is for universities to compete in the world championships, where the true value of education is tested. Currently, the University of Tokyo stands at the pinnacle of Japanese education. The University of Tokyo is currently at the top of Japan's list, unrivaled by any other university in Japan, and is one of the top universities in the world, so the difference in ability is obvious. In addition to the University of Tokyo, other prestigious universities in Japan such as Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Tohoku University are all represented in the competition, and the University of Aizu's ability to win against such strong opponents and compete in the world championships four times is "proof of a university representing Japan". I don't think that's true," he says. For more than 20 years, the University of Aizu has provided generous support to athletes and teams competing in the ICPC. Thanks to this support, they have competed at the Asian Regional Championships and the World Championships, and have achieved results that put them on a par with world-class competitors. These athletes have gone on to work for some of the world's largest and most prestigious companies in the IT and related fields, and are now active on a global scale. While celebrating the achievements of our graduates, the University of Aizu will do its utmost to back up future challengers who take a new step forward in pursuit of the world stage that they have set their sights on," Teacher Watanabe said emphatically at the end of his speech.

Students at the University of Aizu continue to take on challenges with generous support.

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WATANOBE Yutaka

Senior Associate Professor, Computer Science and Engineering. He is himself a graduate of the University of Aizu.

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WATANOBE Yutaka | Faculty List