A team of three Harvey Mudd College students took first place at the Southern California Regionals of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest on Nov. 7 at Riverside Community College, ranking ahead of CalTech, USC and UCLA.They will move on to the international finals next year in a competition to be held in Harbin, China Feb. 1-6.Team HMC 42, comprised of students Daniel Fielder HMC ’11, Stuart Pernsteiner HMC ’12 and Anak Yodpinyanee HMC ’12, prepared extensively for the contest through Programming Practicum, a Harvey Mudd class that uses ACM as a springboard for its topics. Meeting once a week, students complete practice problems and are introduced to strategies for best traversing the competition.“The number one strategy for this contest, which is a worthwhile one to keep in mind in general, is to start with a low-hanging fruit,” said ACM professor Zachary Dodds. “Solve the easy problems first, figure out how much you have left, then do the more difficult ones,”Final ranks were calculated first by total correct solutions out of seven problems, then narrowed down by submission times, with 20-minute penalties for incorrect solutions.“All three of us have been doing programming contests since high school,” said Fielder. “We ended up winning by time, with a pretty decent but not huge lead.”Despite having 20 students in the class, the college could send no more than 12 because of a limit set out by the contest.An internal competition to assemble four teams made of the strongest programmers from the course took place in late October.“We have had teams in the past, but not in the recent past, who have gone to international finals,” Dodds said. “I’ve been an advisor for ten years and this is the first time we’ve gotten first place. Usually CalTech wins.”Although event sponsor IBM will provide lodging in Harbin, it is expected that Harvey Mudd will provide funds for airline tickets through a variety of internal sources.