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August 9, 2019 Hola Mundo ??: The TCO19 South America Event Grows and Sparks – Topcoder Nation Ep. 09

Being very brief, history teaches us that no more than 500 years ago, a particular group of explorers came to settle in this piece of land called many things from marvelous, wonderful, India (mistakenly), to what it is today: America. Spaniard colonizers took hold of the central and southern portions of it, spreading their empire across every piece of land that could be found, and with them, the language. Nowadays in South America, most of the countries speak the most versatile and sexy language ever – alright, history doesn’t teach this, it’s just me – Spanish. Something particularly interesting is that those Spaniard colonizers didn’t think their popular language could be competing with another giant for the crown 500 years later, a powerful one such as C++, the most “spoken” language in the programming world in South America. The reason why it’s common to see this infamous language mashup/mix line of code first time programmers throw cout << “Hola Mundo”, is it equivalent to the infamous typical hello world all programming languages introduce to their students.

Three pieces of good news for you before moving forward with this article. First one, the TCO19 South America event was, let me use Harshit’s favorite word, AMAZING. The most brilliant minds of all South America gathered together to provide one heck of a show in a very special competition, covering different tracks, goodies and surprises! The second one, the last regional event in Japan is just around the corner. This will wrap up all the regionals prior to the big, bold and unique Topcoder Open 2019. Third, (and most likely not a good one for you), I will reply to one of the most asked questions I unexpectedly received last week after publishing the previous Topcoder Nation article: is it over? No more episodes? Not sure how this thing became popular for readers but one thing I can say is that one post was the final trip but not the final destination of this rookie blogger. This episode is another outcome of the possibility of traveling, working while living something called life – yes, there will be more episodes! Now as I write from Buenos Aires, please allow me tell you how spectacular this event was.

MI CASA ES TU CASA

Today we learn Spanish! My home is your home is what this subtitle means. Being personal, I was overwhelmed by this weird, particularly intimate feeling of being part of this event. This is my “pateadero” (home soil) in a manner of speaking and this is Topcoder Open. If you have ever wasted your precious time by following any of my articles, you must know what this community means to me. The fact is that this event being held in South America represents progress, emotion, and connection on so many levels that I can barely explain it. Quoting Harshit again: AMAZING!

Harshit explains how amazing TCO is!

Back during the TCO19 India Regional event, I witnessed how the India team worked hard and collaborated with each other to make the event special for members. It seemed to be exciting to share such responsibility. During this opportunity, the universe conspired to give me the chance to belong to the staff team that helped run the event in Buenos Aires. I was able to receive that emotional goose bumping speech before starting to work for the members, to help them feel at home, to solve any possible issue and strive to spread the community spirit among them. Alongside with Harshit [hmehta], Melanie [melsclar], Sergey [birdofpreyru] and collaborative sponsors (Medallia and IT Crowd), we combined forces to serve the community as they deserve. There was a huge effort to come here from all over the continent –  not just Argentina. There were people also competing from Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru.

WHAT’S NEW?

This is the second time this regional event has been run by Topcoder in the same city. Buenos Aires; the first most visited city in South America, the land of tango dance, asado (barbecue), wine, dulce de leche (milk caramel) and intense football fans. A fast-paced growing community, education, and industry-wise (software). In terms of Topcoder members, back when I was beginning in 2007, there were only a few coders from South America. Developers, I could count them with all the fingers of my hands. Designers, with one hand. Nowadays it’s impressive the quantity and diversity we have in the community with members coming from many South American countries, competitors and copilots from all tracks!

Last year only held algorithm competitions and had less than 50 attendees. This year I was excited to see the introduction of development and design competitions as well, with a revamped algorithm SRM. Alongside the fabulous participation of TCC members, with custom TCO branded T-shirts and their handles, just like a TCO; trying to emulate that experience, that feeling of live competition, all eyes on you – making a total of 90+ attendees thrilling with excitement at the Medallia’s venue.

THE CHAMPIONS

Development

Sergey copiloted the onsite development competition, describing the outcome as impressive, considering the timeline constraint. Out of ten registered participants, three of them submitted their unique solutions. The contest repeated the challenge proposed at TCO19 China. In a hackathon manner, competitors were provided with the historic SRM dataset: the information about all Single Round Matches ever held by Topcoder, including the problems, participants, and outcomes. Competitors had three hours to play with this data and develop anything cool with them. The focus on SRM dataset was deliberate, as the algorithm and data science communities are strong in South America, and largely present at the regional event. The development challenge about SRM data thus was a way to make it more appealing to the event participants.

Development winners

Design

Guess who copiloted the design challenge? Your humble servant here! Another opportunity to spread the little knowledge I have about this incredible community in a very unexpected and fun experience. At first, there were only two pre-registered designers who were supposed to compete. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it to the event. In a positive turn of events, Harshit had the crazy idea of letting me address the crowd to talk about design, the community, and my journey. I elaborated more about the challenge, which was about helping Messi win the world cup, a very sensitive topic for Argentinians (football). A fun lightning two hours fast RUX exercise to design an application that helped to assemble a team by using expert football community feedback to select the players. There were 7 onsite competitors, of which 6 of them had never used a design tool before! After setting up Adobe XD in their machines and doing a quick tutorial, they were ready to start the challenge. What’s more exciting in all this is the impressive quality of thoughts and execution for first-timers! I can’t stop being amazed by such talent.

Design winners

SRM

The Algorithm competition was a timed contest where all contestants compete online and are given the same problems to solve under the same time constraints using any of the available four programming languages: Java, C#, C++, and VB.NET. These problems are like the ones in our beloved SRMs! Being the competition with the most tradition in South America, 50+ people gathered to solve hard problems that required giving creative solutions using well-known computer science techniques, like backtracking or dynamic programming. We had some bold contestants that decided to solve the hardest problem first to secure the most points: although at the end they didn’t win (the System Test was merciless with their Time Limit Exceeded!) it gave a nice twist to the competition. And who knows, maybe in 2020 their strategy pays off!

SRM wildcard qualifiers and winners

TCC

The “vedette” (star) competition of the event! The one that held the most talented college minds in South America for an algorithmic academic challenge. The same format as an SRM, targeted especially to these young people full of promise. They were the most beloved participants in the event: they had an individual presentation at the beginning of the contest, special t-shirts made with their names on them and signages with their pictures on them (which they kept as souvenirs).

This is the first time a TCC was held in South America, and it was in honor of a very strong competitor from Argentina and problem writer for Topcoder, ltaravilse.

  • 1st place: hymsly (Peru)
  • Runner up: 14carlosoto (Argentina) – also a gold medalist in last year’s IOI!
TCC competitors and champions

HASTA LUEGO, ARGENTINA

What’s the best possible way to say goodbye to a charming city like Buenos Aires while at the same time spending good quality time with members? Many ideas come to mind but there is only one possible idea that comes to Harshit’s head in times of emotional connection: food!

Butter Chicken Squad strikes again

To make it even more special, in our particular entrepreneurship delusional adventures, we had the chance to have dinner with a group of lucky new members of the Butter Chicken Squad. Led by our clever CEO, whose criteria to book a hotel was that it be located no more than 500 meters away from an Indian restaurant, we had the courage to convince Argentinians (non-familiar with spices) to eat delicious, incredible, jaw-dropping Indian food … In Buenos Aires, the land of beef and wine. So surreal and magical.

What a great event with fantastic people and unique moments I will hold in my most precious memories. Thanks, Topcoder for another chance to sum up positive happy moments in my short little life.  

That’s all folks. See you next time for another episode of this series. Peace out!


PICS OF THIS EPISODE


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