Today marks the third annual Code War, a huge student hackathon where teams from top universities around the world have 8 hours to analyse a problem, create a solution, and test it against the entries of the other programming experts.
Last year, the focus was on teams writing an AI and pathfinder for a limo company in order to transport CEOs from one business to another.
After they program, the teams have to play the game, and whoever has the top score on the board at the end of the day wins.
There are no judges. Colorado State University won last year.
Business Insider caught up with David Thielen, Founder and CTO of Windward Studios,
who heads up the Code War each year. He gave us a rundown of how the day works.
- The students arrive around 9:15am to a designated spot on their campus on the day of the Code War.
- Once they set up their computers, they receive the problem they have to solve. Up until that time, the problem has been completely confidential. They only have the next 8 hours to work.
- There are 5 students per team, and they’re all encouraged to collaborate as they work together.
- At each school, there’s a professor that signs up to moderate the students’ activity.
“When I was at Harvey Mudd,” Thielen told us, “students would come up to me at the end telling me the Code War was the best thing they ever did.”
Harvey Mudd in Claremont, CA is one of the top engineering schools in the country, and the school where the Code War began. Thielen’s daughter is a bio-engineering student there, and she was the one who encouraged her dad to bring the Code War to universities everywhere.
Now, Code Wars is held at over 25 schools every year, with Harvey Mudd, Purdue, University of Maryland and Georgia Tech producing the most teams of students. The event even has sponsors; HP, Jetbrains, and Salesforce.
“My goal was to make this as interesting and fun and as challenging as it could be for students,” Thielen said.
The students enjoy the healthy competition. Years ago, Harvey Mudd and CalTech displayed their rivalry when Mudd students went and changed the name on some of CalTech’s welcome signs.
When asked who’s slated to win this year, Theilen says he has no idea.
“The brilliant thing about Code Wars,” he told Business Insider, “is that it comes down to these 8 hours and no one has an advantage.”
“And the students still get the rest of their weekend,” he added.