Monday, 14 May 2007

The first test run

The group of students, mentioned in the Power Outage and Goals messages, just finished their test run of our first version of the ICFP Programming Contest 2007. The good news is that they exhibited the same kind of addiction we felt when working on last years' contest: each of them was supposed to spend 40 hours on the contest (72 hours minus sleeping, eating, and some travelling), about the number of hours we spend when working on the 2006 contest, but some of them spent more than double the amount of time. And they had quite a lot of fun working on the contest. It doesn't happen often to me that, despite me telling a student not to work on a task anymore, he tells me he is going to work on it, in a way which clearly shows that I cannot stop him even if I wanted to. They actually got quite far, but they also missed some aspects. They're clearly very good students, but I expect that they are not of the level of the top teams working on ICFP contests. So we might make the task a bit more challenging at some points. They had some interesting observations about our task description, and the way with which we ranked solutions. All in all this test round has proved very useful:
  • we were forced to finish a first version of the task long before the actual contest. We spent a very hectic weekend before the deadline. Besides being a very productive weekend, it was also very enjoyable.
  • the students got a very good idea of what the contest is about, and how contestants will go about trying to solve it. Probably better than us.
  • we got to see how contestants go about the task, what kind of (sometimes undesirable) problems they encounter, etc.
From now on the students will help in producing the next test version of the task, scheduled for the beginning of July.

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