Ben Joeris, a 19-year-old student at Colorado State University, has earned a spot among the top 48 contestants in a prestigious international programming competition and is heading to the final rounds which will determine this year’s world champion. Joeris is one of only four Americans advancing to the last level of the Algorithm Competition of the 2006 TopCoder Collegiate Challenge to be held Nov. 15-17 in San Diego. More than 3,300 graduate and undergraduate students from 92 countries began on-line elimination rounds in August.
Joeris is in his second year at Colorado State and has already completed several top-level math and computer science courses. He first began taking classes at Colorado State at age 16 while a junior at Fort Collins High School. Computer Science professor Ross McConnell quickly realized Joeris’ unique talents. By age 17, Joeris was the top student in McConnell’s 600-level math classes which were comprised of doctoral students. By age 18, he helped teach one of these classes and in his research work solved problems that have been open in the literature and stumped career researchers for decades. Last year, as a member of Colorado State’s winning team in the Putnam Mathematics Competition (described by Time magazine as "the toughest math test in the world"), he had the highest individual score in Colorado.
"I am extremely proud of Ben," McConnell said. "Through a stroke of luck, I met him three years ago when he came to my CS 166 class and since then, I have spent hundreds of hours working individually with him, all of it a joy. I have never before seen anyone with his ability in my entire teaching career."
At the TopCoder competition, Joeris and the other contestants compete for over $60,000 in cash prizes. They will have one hour and 25 minutes to code three computer programs to solve three problems of increasing difficulty. Algorithms are the heart of these programs; the underlying mathematical approach for solving the problem. After devising a set of algorithms which contestants think will work, they write programs that apply the algorithms to successfully solve the problems.
After the competitors submit their programs, they have 15 minutes to review and challenge the work of fellow contestants to gain or loose points. Programs surviving initial challenges are then put to the test. Those taking longer than two seconds to run or outputting a wrong answer on even one test score no points. The contestants left standing are scored according to how fast they wrote and submitted their programs.
Programming and math run in Joeris’ family. His mother and grandmother are programmers, and his cousin and uncle have PhDs from Colorado State and the University of Northern Colorado. Joeris started working on computer programming when he was 10 years-old with an ambition to program video games. In high school he trained on-line with the USA Computing Olympiad (www.usaco.org) and was a finalist in the 2004. He’s been competing in TopCoder since 2003.
"I entered to TopCoder competition because I wanted to see how well I could do," Joeris said. "I certainly did not set out to be one of the top programmers in the whole world."
While at Colorado State, Joeris has received support through from the College of Natural Science through the Undergraduate Research Institute and the Heidenfelder and Mohilner scholarships awarded through the Department of Computer Science. He also plays violin and classical guitar, skis, and snowboards. His goal is to become a mathematics professor.
For more information about the 2006 TopCoder Collegiate Challenge and the list of competitors who have advanced to the Championship rounds in San Diego, visit:
For details on the Algorithm Competition, visit: http://www.topcoder.com/tc?module=Static&d1=tournaments&d2=tccc06&d3=alg_description.
For Ben Joeris’s TopCoder profile and statistics, visit: