Logo: University of Southern California

We Are The Champions

For the fourth consecutive year, the USC computer programming team has won first place in the "Pac-12 South" computer programming competition.
By: Samantha Romero
November 21, 2014 —


The USC Trojans hold their championship certificates after the Southern California regional competition on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. Student Coach Yu Cheng (far left) stands beside the winning team of Xinpei Yu, Ruixin Qiang and Gaoyuan Chen, along with faculty coach Michael Shindler and Ed Skochinski, regional contest director.

For the fourth consecutive year, USC Viterbi engineering students walked away with the grand prize in the fiercely competitive Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC).  

Eighty-six teams from 25 different universities and community colleges attended the Nov. 8 Southern California Regional tournament held at Riverside Community College. UCLA placed second, while Caltech took home the bronze. Competitors also included Harvey Mudd College, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego.
“In what was the championship competition, the USC Viterbi CS student team won the equivalent of the Pac-12 South competition,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, "and was crowned the champion for the fourth straight year.”
The triumphant Trojan team featured student programmers Ruixin Qiang, Gaoyuan Chen and Xinpei Yu, all of USC Viterbi.
Participants had to answer a series of questions as quickly as possible within five hours, writing in C++ and Java to process spreadsheets and solve mathematical puzzles. 
USC Trojans solved seven of nine problems. Although UCLA and Caltech also solved the same amount, USC secured victory by answering the fastest.
Yu Cheng, a team coach and USC Viterbi Ph.D. candidate, credits the students’ dedication and interest in competitive programming for the its success.
“They are eager to learn new algorithms and how to code them up fast, and they enjoy competing in this sort of contest,” Cheng said. “Without them, there is no way we can win Southern California Regional four years in a row.”
A former ACM competitor himself, Cheng helped prepare his students by providing twice weekly, two-hour training sessions beginning in October.
However, the intensive preparation did not stop there for Yu, a 23-year-old USC Viterbi computer science graduate student, and his teammates. 
“We trained together during the weekends to improve teamwork,” Yu said. “And we also competed in individual contests, such as TopCoder and Codeforces, to improve programming skills on our own.”
As the champions, the Trojans will advance to the International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals that will take place May 16-21, 2015 in Morocco.
“The world finals in Morocco will be very intense," said Cheng. "There will be about 120 teams from all over the world competing together. In the past three years, USC ranked 36th, 14th, 19th in this contest. We always want to do better than last year and keep raising the bar higher.”