About the ICPC Mid-Central USA Regional

The International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) is the oldest and largest programming contest in the world. Each year, the ICPC attracts more than 10,000 teams around the world which compete in various regional contests in the Fall to earn one of the coveted 120 spots at the World Finals.

The Mid-Central USA regional contest is one of the eleven regional contests that make up the North American super-region.The contest takes place in late October / early November, and attracts more than 100 teams from universities in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Each year, 2-3 teams from our region typically advance to the World Finals of the ICPC.

What does a “programming contest” involve?

ICPC-style programming contests are five-hour on-site contests where each team (composed of three students) must solve some number of programming problems (for example, see our problem archive). Each team has a single computer, with no access to the Internet and limited access to online reference materials (some contests, like the Mid-Central regional do allow teams to bring unlimited amounts of printed reference materials). To perform well on a contest, teams must have not just strong coding skills but also a solid grasp of Algorithms, Data Structures, and other foundational Computer Science topics.

Throughout the contest, teams submit their solutions to an automated judging system that will automatically determine whether the team’s solution is correct or not (this system accomplishes this by running the team’s solution through a variety of automated tests). Teams are ranked first on the number of problems solved, and then on the time it took them to solve a problem (with time penalties applied for problems that are solved after more than one try).

Throughout the contest, teams can see a scoreboard showing each team’s rank and the problems that they have solved (scoreboards from past regionals are also available in the problem archive). The scoreboard is an important part of the team’s strategy, as it allows them to see the problems that other teams are focusing on (e.g., if most of the teams have solved the same problem, that usually indicates that is an easy problem). An hour before the end of the contest, the scoreboard is frozen, which means teams won’t know the final ranking until the scoreboard is “thawed” at the closing ceremony, adding some suspense to the end of the contest.

Interested in participating?

If you are a student interested in participating, read our Information for Contestants page. In a nutshell, you will need to form a team of three students, and find a faculty sponsor. Your faculty sponsor must also serve or designate a team coach.

If you are a faculty member interested in getting your students to participate in ICPC, read our Information for Coaches