UofM student programmers compete at MIT
U of M second year, computer science students, Kieran Cairney, Aaron Wojnowski, Lorenzo Gentile and Garrett Suss wowed professors, peers and industry alike with their superior programming skills at the Battlecode programming competition held January 31, 2015, at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“It was a blast, and a great programing challenge. It really tested our ability to think strategically.” – Lorenzo Gentile
The 6.370 Battlecode programming competition is the longest-running AI programming competition. It is a remarkable tournament that tests contestants’ ability to combine battle strategy, software engineering and artificial intelligence. In summation, the objective is for each team of contestants to write the best player program to accomplish set out goals in the computer game Battlecode.
Battlecode is a real time strategy game. In Battlecode, two opposing teams of robots search the game world for resources and attack each other with different types of weapons as they battle for game supremacy. However, instead of being controlled by a joystick, or keyboard each of the robot factions’ function autonomously loaded with only the instruction provided to it by each teams computer programs. Robots in the game communicate by radio signal and must work together to complete a set of tasks.
The contest is open to teams of one to four students and in early January, contestants are given the Battlecode software and a specification of the game rules. Each team must develop a player program that will be run by each of their robots during the matches. There are three qualifying tournaments. At the final tournaments each group of autonomous robots are pitted against each other in dramatic head to head action. The final rounds of the MIT tournament are played in front of a live audience with a chance to take home some of the $50,000 in total of cash and prizes.
“The challenge was coming up with algorithms that were simple but worked on a macro scale and that fit within the restrictions of the competition. The game was really fast-paced as well, you would have a few days to program and then a qualifying tournament.” – Aaron Wojnowski
After three weeks and over 80 hours of non-stop programming, the sleep deprived Manitoban team was suddenly informed of their victory, a spot in the final tournament. The team was sent plane tickets to Cambridge and given only two days to prepare and pack. Upon arrival they had the opportunity to participate in a dinner with industry sponsors, the likes of Oracle, Google, Facebook, and Twitch.
It was a proud day for our Manitoban team, being that they were the only Canadian participants. The full-day tournament, held in a large auditorium at MIT was an opportunity to meet fellow peers from as far away as Germany.
Overall the team did well. In the finals, the team placed between positions 13 and 16 out of over than 150 teams. In a more recent open tournament, open to all 400 registered teams, not just teams consisting of students, the team placed between positions 7 and 8. The team, who have known each other since High School are already looking forward to the next competition in 2016.
Congratulations and good luck guys!