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Another Meteoric Rise for UC San Diego’s “Fallen Star” Team in Global Programming Competition

UC San Diego engineering students outshone roughly 60,000 competitors, advancing to ICPC’s world championships for the second time in two years.

Fallen Star team photo
The UC San Diego student programming team, Fallen Star, has soared for the second year to the international competition of the International Collegiate Programming Contest. Team members (from l to r) Zexing Chen, Shang Zhou, Qihao Ye (co-coach), Stanisław Strzelecki.

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University of California San Diego’s competitive student programming team, Fallen Star, is set to compete in the prestigious International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) World Finals in Astana, Kazakhstan this September. The team will travel more than 6,500 miles to match wits with the best and brightest problem-solving minds worldwide.

The three-member team from the Jacobs School of Engineering, with students Stanislaw Strzelecki and Shang Zhou from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Zexing Chen from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, hopes to continue its meteoric rise after claiming a bronze medal at the 2024 ICPC North America Championship. The team also placed first in the 2024 ICPC Challenge powered by NSA, a specialized contest held to help teams prepare for the main event.

“We want to bring back a medal from the World Finals, and these results prove it’s very much within our reach,” said Strzelecki.

Fallen Star team competing
Up against some tough competition, team members Shang Zhou, Zexing Chen, Stanisław Strzelecki persevered and advanced to the international competition. 

Fallen Star’s latest win at the divisional level is the second time teammates Strzelecki and Zhou have clinched a spot in the World Finals. They were one of 140 teams to compete in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in 2023.

“Returning to the World Finals for the second consecutive year is a monumental achievement for our team,” said mathematics PhD student Qihao Ye, who co-coaches Fallen Star with CSE PhD student Zihan Wang. 

“This accomplishment signifies a strong and growing trend of excellence in competitive programming at UCSD. It not only enhances the strength and reputation of our computer science program but also promotes the university on the global stage,” said Ye.

The ICPC is the world’s oldest and preeminent algorithmic programming contest, with teams competing annually in several elimination rounds. Teams are allotted five hours and one computer to solve a set of 10 to 13 algorithmic programming problems in the shortest amount of time possible.

At the North American Championship, Fallen Star correctly solved 8 problems, edging out 45 teams from across North America to earn bronze. Teams from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Columbia University received silver, with 9 problems solved, while a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology solved 10 problems to win gold.

Throughout the school year, members of Fallen Star participated in two 5-hour in-person practice sessions per week, solving problems together and discussing strategies for competitions. Team members dedicated additional hours weekly practicing individually.

The success of Fallen Star is a potent blend of dedication, a desire to excel, and remarkable teamwork.
Computer Science and Engineering professor Jingbo Shang

To prepare for the World Finals, the team will continue their intensive training sessions over summer break – but from three different continents and time zones. They will hold a 5-hour team practice once every two weeks and place greater emphasis on individual practice. They also intend to participate in practice contests to polish their teamwork and ensure smooth collaboration during the competition. 

“The success of Fallen Star is a potent blend of dedication, a desire to excel, and remarkable teamwork,” said CSE Professor Jingbo Shang, who joined leadership of the campus ICPC club in 2019.

UC San Diego’s competitive programming club helps participants strengthen their problem-solving capabilities and learn how to perform under pressure while also improving job interview skills. The club holds selection contests to form teams and determine which teams qualify to compete.

Over the past 20 years, the ICPC community has spread across the globe, with annual participation levels reaching 60,000 team members representing 3,450 universities in 111 countries

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