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BSC students dominate college computing symposium

Posted on 4/25/2012

Six Bismarck State College computer science students staged a stunning upset at the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS). The students racked up first place wins in the robotics and programming contests, beating dozens of teams made up of juniors, seniors and graduate students from four-year colleges across the region.

Held at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, April 13-14, the symposium brings approximately 250 of the "best and the brightest" undergraduate students from a five-state region together to learn about their field and compete in three contests - robotics, programming and research paper/presentation.

Led by Karen Arlien, associate professor of computer science, the BSC students attending the symposium were Austin Nodland and Alex Wollan from Bismarck; Ryan Holte, Washburn; Michael Rameden, Ray; Ben Thorson, Newcastle, Wyo.; and Darren Eck, Stockton, Calif.

In the programming contest, two BSC teams competed against 55 other teams to solve a set of programming problems utilizing math and computer language skills within a three-hour time limit. Named for computer science concepts, team "Class Brick Implements Throwable { }" (Thorson, Wollan and Eck), took first place in the programming contest, completing five of the seven available problems in the least amount of time.

The other BSC programming team, "The Dangling Pointers" (Holte, Rameden and Nodland), placed 35th after completing three of the seven problems.

"We were all really excited. We come in as the underdog every year, and really feel that," Arlien said. "Our goal is always to solve one problem - many teams we compete against don't solve any."

The robotics competition included several months of preparation for competitor Nodland and his coach, BSC alumnus Lucas Pippenger. According to Arlien, Pippenger was instrumental in starting BSC's involvement in robotics. He served as captain of the first BSC robotics team last year and created, and teaches, a two-week unit on robotics for computer science I and II students each semester.

"There were 20 teams in the competition and ours was the fastest of the two that finished the course. It's that challenging," Arlien says.

The winning teams received $500.

About Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium
The Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) is a regional conference dedicated to providing an educational experience to higher education participants across the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The conference focuses on integrating computer-based technology into teaching and learning processes of all disciplines, along with incorporating the study of this technology into the curriculum. Conference activities include technical paper sessions, programming and robotics contests, a keynote address, and a Career Fair for student participants.

About Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College, an innovative community college in Bismarck, N.D., offers high quality education, workforce training, and enrichment programs reaching local and global communities.

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