Monday, July 16, 2012 | 12:33 PM
As London gears up to host Olympic athletes, Hungary recently attracted some of the world’s most promising computer scientists for its own cerebral Games - the Central European Olympiad in Informatics. A total of 52 competitors, aged 15 to 17, came from 12 countries to the town of Tata. They worked for two days coding. All shared a common goal: to build the best algorithm and to solve complex problems of everyday life with the power of technology.
This computer Olympiad, launched in 1994, is held annually, in a different country each year. The John von Neumann Computer Society organises the 2012 Games, in Hungary and Google joined as a sponsor.
Competitors were given practical problems to solve by building efficient algorithms. The faster the program, the higher the score. One task - inspired by the scenic view from the venue - was to design a program that can calculate the longest possible path a sightseeing cruise can travel on a lake, touching multiple stops in a restricted order, while only crossing its own path once. Romanian and Bulgarian teams won the Gold Medal in this contest and the highest number of overall gold medals. A full listing of medal winners is found here.
During the Olympiad, contestants took part in an hour long conversation via Google Hangout with Google engineer Mihai Stroe, who leads a team of Google Maps engineers in Zurich, He and his team write algorithms which every day help millions of people and help them find the quickest way from A to B whether they are travelling by foot, by car or public transport.
More than a decade ago, Mihai competed in student programming competitions. He even took part in an Olympiad as a member of the scientific committee. The experience helped shaped his career at Google. “Algorithms, like the ones these talented students built today, are at the very heart of what Google does. Google is making the world better with the power of technology, and these guys are our future too. I’m happy to share my experiences with them,” he said.