Stuyvesant’s Competitive Coding Club To Attend UPenn PClassic Competition

The Competitive Coding Club (CCC) is attending the PClassic this year on December 2, a coding competition held at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia

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Stuyvesant’s Competitive Coding Club (CCC) attended the PClassic, a coding competition held at the University of Pennsylvania, on December 2, in Philadelphia. Forty-five out of 61 applicants were chosen to compete in this year’s contest. This is the first time the CCC attended the free PClassic in person since COVID-19. Stuy students Hokai Ma, Aditya Pahuja, Andrew Li, Calvin Zhang obtained third place in the advanced divison. 

A day at the PClassic goes as follows: In the morning, a guest speaker talks to all the competitors and explains how the day will go. Then, a pizza lunch is provided and the tables and groups are set up. Two divisions compete in the PClassic: Classic (novice) and Advanced. Each division is given four problems specific to their division and four common problems, which they will solve from within their divisions. “The middle four problems that are shared are like the intermediate difficulties, so yeah, that’s how problem difficulty goes. And it progressively gets harder through each problem,” junior and president of Stuy CCC Matthew Chen said.

PClassic is a whole-day competitive coding event. “Competitions are around four to five hours [...] And then after that, there will be a 30- to 60-minute time [when] they are going to look at the placements, and then they're going to give out awards to the top placing teams. And then that ends at around 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.,” Chen said.

Competitors receive points based on how many correct problems they solve. “If multiple teams solve the same amount of problems, then they look at how much time it took to solve the problems. Time penalties are used to cut the ties,” Chen said.

They will be competing in competitive coding, which requires a very specialized skill set and knowledge of a specific type of programming. “Ramming—it’s a field of programming where competitors are given a problem statement that’s kind of like a puzzle, and they have to write a computer code that outputs the right solution. Then, the grader is going to compare the solution the computer prints versus what is expected,” Chen said.

To attend the competition, schools must sign up as teams, not individuals. The contest is very popular among students interested in coding, so much so that at the last event, three whole floors of the building were filled with students. Unfortunately, the competition has been held online for the past few years because of COVID-19. However, some schools held their own competitions. “Last year during the fall, there was still COVID, but not as extreme. What Stuy did was host the spring competition in the cafeteria and last year’s fall in the library,” Chen said.

To some members, these competitions were an important step in CCC’s return to normalcy. “When PClassic started back virtually fall 2021, we hosted events at the school where we’d have the cafeteria or library and compete from the Stuy building and do the problems there together to give a bit of the fun of team contests back,” alumnus and former co-president of Stuyvesant CCC Frank Wong said. “The sheer amount of participants means that for example this year [Fall 2023], we had to contact them through e-mail so that they could sign up all our teams. The main hurdle, however, is logistical, notably obtaining SU funding for the trip.”

Many competitors look forward to both the competition’s team building and problem-solving aspects. “[I am] definitely [looking forward to] the trip to UPenn and the thrill of solving problems,” senior and Stuy CCC vice president Naowal Rahman said. “Even more, though, working with my teammates and taking part in the joy of problem-solving is a really rewarding process.”

Preparation for the competition started in October with biweekly meetings, with Advanced gathering on Mondays and Classic on Thursdays. “In our practice meetings, though, we give a few problems to everyone, where people can work together, discuss, or compete with each other. In the next meeting, we will explain the solutions to those problems. Yesterday, we had a [two-and-a-half]-hour practice mashup that we organized on CodeForces to provide extra practice,” Rahman said.

CCC has helped many members evolve into advanced coders, creating high expectations for the team during the PClassic. Some of its members even compete at the highest level of the USA Computing Olympiad. “One of the presidents of CCC is USACO Platinum, so his team has lots of potential,” Rahman said. 

The season does not end with PClassic. Chen noted that CCC also hopes to attend a competition at Cornell in the spring. “Cornell is pretty close, so we’re not going to get a bus for that. At least last year students just went on their own and gathered there,” Chen said.

CCC’s entry into the PClassic has been well-anticipated and expectations are high for a top-place finish. More than that, though, students love the experience of traveling to a competition with people who also enjoy difficult coding problems. “Long bus rides with lots of people are a great experience, and it's awesome that we get to do that here in CCC,” Rahman said.