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DSU students in 2019 Digi-Key Collegiate Computing Competition
DSU teams took 1st and 3rd in the Digi-Key Competition. Team members include: Michael Boyle (left), Hunter DeMeyer, Blake Nedved, Collin Rumpca, Jarod Keene, Brendan Hansen, Khoi Nguyen, faculty advisor Austin O’Brien, and Logan Stratton.

DSU takes top spots in programming competition

Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

It’s not only technical skills that are needed for cyber competitions. Teamwork and communication are also necessary skills for success.

Dakota State University students have those skills, evidenced with wins at the 2019 Digi-Key Collegiate Computing Competition held earlier this month.

Out of 13 teams from across North and South Dakota and Minnesota, DSU took first and third, the same results as in the 2018 event. The students won Amazon gift cards, and the department will receive a $5,000 check for the first-place win, and a $1,000 check for third place.

Those funds are used to support the activities and needs of the Programming Club, and the Computer Club, activities such as competition travel and local developmental activities that prepare students to compete in the future, said Dr. Tom Halverson, associate professor of computer science.

“Club funding from student fees alone is not sufficient for the amount of activity these high-achieving student desire and deserve,” Halverson said. “The use of auxiliary funding, such as the Digi-Key award, helps greatly in opening new opportunities and allows for a larger number of students to participate.”

This was the second year Khoi Nguyen, a master’s in computer science student from Vietnam, has competed in the Digi-Key competition. He said, “I am happy that my team could get third place two years in a row and bring some funding for DSU.”

The competitions also develop skills for the DSU students.

“The competition really forces good teamwork and communication skills as each team is only given one computer,” said Collin Rumpca, a computer science major from Aberdeen, S.D. Problem solving and translating that solution to another person is a difficult skill, but DSU’s teams have mastered this, and “that gave us the edge and allowed us to win,” he stated.

Hunter DeMeyer, a computer science major from Solon, Ohio, appreciates the team atmosphere. “My favorite part of the competition was working as a team to solve programming problems.”

Because this competition uses a shorter format, with three one-hour sessions to work on coding problems, it means “you need to have more faith in your teammates to get a solution together and done in time to write it up,” said Logan Stratton, a computer science major from Luverne, Minn. “With the short time we all just jump on a problem while someone is always typing,” he said.

“The constant pressure of trying to get just one more program built in the last five minutes of each round just added to the excitement of the entire event,” said Michael Boyle, a cyber operations and computer science major from Oradell, N.J.

“Every competition that we attend always strengthens our ability to communicate and work efficiently,” said Jarod Keene, a computer science master’s degree student from Rapid City, S.D.

This competition also offered a look at a real computer science business, with a tour of the electronics component distributor based in Thief River Falls, Minn., and ice breaker games, said Blake Nedved, a computer science major from Spirit Lake, Iowa.

“This is a huge experience for the students,” said faculty advisor Dr. Austin O'Brien. “The students learn to think outside the box, and find creative ways to use and apply what they’ve learned in class in a real-world setting,” he said. “It’s impressive to see what the students can do in such a short amount of time.”

The first-place team members included: Nedved, Rumpca, Keene, and Brendan Hansen, a computer science and mathematics major from Sioux Falls, S.D. The third-place team members included: Boyle, DeMeyer, Nguyen, and Stratton.