High school students showed off their computer science and problem-solving skills at the annual Computers Opportunity Conference at MSOE on Nov. 19, 2021. A total of 26 teams from 15 different schools competed.

The competition challenged teams of four to work together to solve programming problems of varying levels of difficulty. Teams were provided with two laptops and able to use either Python, Java (Eclipse or BlueJ) or C++ (Microsoft Visual Studio .NET) to design their solutions. Students from MSOE’s programming competition team helped Dr. Rob Hasker, professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, write some of the questions for the competition.

Whitefish Bay High School took home first place with seven out of nine problems solved and 138 points. In second place with six problems solved and 101 points was Homestead High School. After a tiebreaker evaluation, Waukesha Homeschool landed third place with four problems solved and 67 points.

Hasker explained the problems ranged from first-year programming course material to problems that would be challenging for MSOE juniors. “My goal is that everyone should be able to solve at least one problem,” said Hasker. “It takes a different style of thinking to solve these programming problems as opposed to the types of problems you’d get in a regular class situation.”

The competition was judged by Hasker, faculty in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, and alumni volunteers Josh Holtz ’11 and Jake Robers ’17. Holtz and Robers have participated in the competition nearly every year since graduating. This year they assisted with determining the tiebreaker by examining the quality of the solutions. “I think it’s very appropriate that two folks from industry took on that role!” said Hasker.  

Unique to the Computer Opportunity Conference, judges gave words of encouragement to teams to help them reach the correct answer. “In many competitions, the response is only ‘yes it works’ or ‘no it fails.’ Because we don’t have to have quite such strict rules, our responses often come with gifs and detailed information about the test cases that caused their solutions to fail.”

For Hasker, seeing students excited about programming is what it’s all about. “I find competitions like this invigorating. Seeing the energy of the students at work, making up my own solutions to the problems, and helping resolve the inevitable issues as they arise all motivate me. I’m as excited for the team that solves just a few problems as for a team that solves nearly all of them.”

After teams turned in their answers and the judges got busy checking responses and totaling scores, Dr. Josiah Yoder, associate professor, gave a presentation entitled “Deep Learning and Rosie.” Yoder discussed deep learning and how he uses Rosie, MSOE’s supercomputer, to advance his research with modeling prostate histology. He also challenged students to think about how they would use deep neural networks to make the world better. The presentation and interactive discussion provided students with real-world examples of how computer science and software engineering can be applied in a multitude of industries and help enhance society.  

First place: Whitefish Bay High School 

  • Henry Coyle
  • Yana Fuhrman
  • Jack Gordon
  • John Shulz
  • Coach: Linnea Logan

Second place: Homestead High School 

  • Isaac Bloomgarden
  • Jack Gerew
  • Eric Wan
  • Ethan Wang
  • Coach: Harry Palzewicz

Third place: Waukesha Homeschool 

  • Micah Chan
  • Nathanael Krug
  • Matthew Schaber
  • Alexander Taylor
  • Coach: Bill Taylor