Colorado State University Computer Science Students Seize National Title in Windward Code Wars

Note to Reporters: Photos are available with the news release at

Colorado State University has grabbed the title in Code Wars, a national computer programming contest, beating out competitors from 29 schools including Columbia University and Princeton University.

“It says a lot about how CSU’s Computer Science department is preparing its students for working in tough environments that force you to think on your toes, make tough decisions in a short amount of time, and come out with something to show for it,” said Jason Lewallen, a member of the winning team.

Code Wars, hosted by software company Windward of Boulder, Colo., is a competition where teams create an artificial intelligent agent to resolve a certain problem. This year’s contest required students to write an algorithm that instructed a limo driver to pick up various high-profile software CEOs and take them to different companies within the virtual world of Windwardopolis.

As implied by its name, Code Wars is no easy task. On January 26, hundreds of teams competed for a grueling eight hours to complete their perfect program. After extensive calculating and designing, CSU’s Team Meh, comprised of computer science undergraduates, Lewallen along with Chris Campbell, Mike Oba, Brandon Schaffer and Austin Walkup emerged victorious.

Results are posted at

“Getting to see our A.I. perform against the other teams all in real time in front of you, your teammates and other teams was exhilarating,” Lewallen said. “I was most proud of the way our team worked together to solve the complex problem presented to us.”

Team Meh’s algorithm was the most successful. The students brought CSU their first glass sailboat for first place to display in the Computer Science department’s trophy case. Students acknowledge it was an impressive victory considering it was CSU’s first year participating in the event, and the school’s involvement was last minute.

“My involvement in the competition was very spur of the moment,” said Lewallen. “I had never participated in a programming competition before, and I happened to read an email about the upcoming competition. That was just a few days before the actual competition on Saturday.”

Brian Kelly, a sophomore at CSU, was key in getting the department involved in the competition. After hearing about Windward’s Code Wars from a friend, Kelly took action to get teams together and to get a faculty advisor. Wim Bohm was the faculty advisor who oversaw the process.

“I chose to dedicate my time to this project because I really love to practice programming, and this was a chance to program, learn and compete,” Kelly said.

With Kelly’s help, CSU created seven teams to compete. Two teams made it to the semi-finals: Fractal Cabbages placed fifth behind the winning team, Team Meh. Students hope to improve their programming skills in next year’s competition.

“Next year, I want to see even more people turn out,” said Kelly. “If we could use multiple labs and have people participate from home we could get an even stronger base for future competitions.”

This year’s Code Wars was the second of its kind hosted by Windward. Its sponsors include Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, JetBrains, and Morgan Stanley.

In recognition of the students’ achievements, HP donated its best selling laptops to the top three teams of the competition including their faculty advisors.