I can recommend participating in such a contest to everyone :-). It was really Big Fun. Family life suffered, but participating was both intellectually challenging and good for the team-spirit. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity to find out how much you can actually do in three days time. Which is a lot!
What was really nice about the 2006 contest:
- entering a virtual world which you could explore
- solving puzzles
- scoring incrementally; small points for small solutions, big points for major achievements
- writing programs in languages which tied your hands on your back (I wrote programs in qbasic and a stupid rewriting engine; and helped thinking a bit about the `rotating' machine.)
- very, very, cleverly done!
- had to program the machine in C because of speed requirements
- could not use Haskell, our programming language of choice, other than for testing
- small programs
- only teamwork at the start, from then on mostly individual work (but that was our own, not very conscious, decision).