CSI 4144: Competitive Learning, Spring 2022


This course is a topics course in problem solving and algorithms. It is modeled on the collaborative and competitive environments at the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Each week we will discuss a topic, and the assignments will be programming-based problems related to that topic.

Practical information

Lectures are Cashion C306.

My office location and office hours are listed on my home page. I am glad to talk to students during and outside of office hours. If you can't come to my office hour, please make an appointment for another time, or just stop by.

You will submit your solutions to Baylor's Kattis Judge. You may need to create an account, and will then register for the course.


The schedule of assignments will be on Kattis.

Students who are writing problems (2nd/3rd semester) should keep these dates in mind:

Textbooks & resources

The textbook for this course is Competitive Programming by Steven Halim and Felix Halim and Suhendry Effendy (Editions 1 and 2 are free online, edition 3 is inexpensive; edition 4 is current).

Another text which is useful is Principles of Algorithmic Problem Solving by Johan Sannemo.

These language references are essential:

The following books may also be useful:

Online programming contest software:

Course handouts


Grades will be assigned based on the following breakdown:

Final letter grades will be assigned at the discretion of the instructor, but here is a minimum guideline for letter grades:
A: 90-100, B+: 88-89, B: 80-87, C+: 78-79, C: 70-77, D: 60-69, F: 0-59

Solving problems

Each problem you complete during the time that it is assigned earns 1 point.

For weeks designated as "exams" or "contests", we will work together to find an in-class examination time that works for everyone.

Writing problems

Students taking the course for the second (third) semester must develop one (two) problems of their own. Use the "Kattis problem package" format. The Kattis problem format is documented here and here is a small example of a problem that you can start with, filling in the relevant parts. In particular, your writeup should have:

You should put all of your work for the problem(s) you write on our git repository for the class.

The reason we use Kattis problem package format is due to the set of tools that are available for verifying problem integrity. You can use them in different ways:

  1. Download a docker image -- via a command like:
    docker pull hamerly/problemtools-icpc
    The docker image is based on Ubuntu and has problemtools already installed. To use it, run something like this:
    docker run --rm -v path_to_problem:/problem hamerly/problemtools-icpc verifyproblem /problem;
    where path_to_problem is the directory containing the problem you wish to verify. It is useful to put this into a script that takes an argument for path_to_problem.
  2. Install problemtools from Github: Kattis problemtools project. See the instructions on that page. They are easiest to install on Ubuntu. As the problemtools package uses a Git submodule, to get the full source you need to use the following command to get all the sources you'll need:
    git clone --recursive git@github.com:Kattis/problemtools.git

You can use this software to verify your problem package before submitting it to me. This means running "verifyproblem" to verify the entire problem package. You can also use "problem2pdf" to see how your problem writeup looks when rendered in PDF.

There are multiple deadlines for problem writeups, which are listed on the schedule above:

  1. The first deadline is a 1-2 paragraph description of the problem idea(s), including the motivation, type of problem (search, shortest path, dynamic programming, etc.), and the basic story outline for the problem.
  2. The second deadline ("Complete draft") means all parts of the problem package(s) should be written -- solution, writeup, input verifier, problem data, etc. The package should verify with Kattis problemtools "verifyproblem". I will evaluate these and send feedback for the final version.
  3. The deliverable of the final deadline is the same as that of the complete draft, except it should be highly polished and in final form. Even with a complete draft that is in good shape, getting a well-crafted problem can be a lot of work, so don't put off working on this.

Here are some additional thoughts and guidelines on how to write programming contest problems.


Academic honesty

I take academic honesty very seriously. Many studies, including one by Sheilah Maramark and Mindi Barth Maline have suggested that "some students cheat because of ignorance, uncertainty, or confusion regarding what behaviors constitute dishonesty" (Maramark and Maline, Issues in Education: Academic Dishonesty Among College Students, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Research, August 1993, page 5). In an effort to reduce misunderstandings, here is a minimal list of activities that will be considered cheating in this class:

Title IX Office

Baylor University does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender in any of its education or employment programs and activities, and it does not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex or gender. This policy prohibits sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, intimate partner violence, and retaliation (collectively referred to as prohibited conduct). For more information on how to report, or to learn more about our policy and process, please visit www.baylor.edu/titleix. You may also contact the Title IX office directly by phone, (254) 710-8454, or email, TitleIX_Coordinator@baylor.edu.

Copyright © Greg Hamerly, with some content taken from a syllabus by Jeff Donahoo.
Computer Science Department
Baylor University

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