Binary Bears secure national competition wins

The Programming Team explains how they won their most recent competition to interested students.

Image: Sterling Neill

The Programming Team explains how they won their most recent competition to interested students.

Mercer University’s programming team, the Binary Bears, recently sent groups to two programming competitions, Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC) and Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), where they ranked second and 14th respectively.

“We are given problems to solve, and then we see how quickly we can solve the problem using a specific type of program,” senior member Avery Zebell said. “Style is important, but speed is key.”

Teammate Will Darragh said that although problems are based on simple concepts, the mathematics required to complete them can get complex.

“The programming would be something really easy for a computer to solve, it’s just us being able to write it as fast as possible,” Darragh said.

In order to compete, the members enrolled in Programming Team Strategy, a course offered in the computer science department.

“You are automatically signed up for it when you join the Binary Bears,” Darragh said. “As you get better, the best thing you can do is practice, but for the younger people, we really focus on the strategies.”

In the class, the team practices problems and strategies as a group.

He explained that there are “tricks to writing code fast,” and these comprise some of the strategy that they teach the new members in the class.

The tricks are also what drew Darragh to coding.

“In high school, I had zero interest, but when I got to college, I had a mathy side to me that always wanted to problem-solve and I had a creative side that always wanted to create something, so when I took my first programming course, I knew it was my passion,” he said.

To Darragh, programming presents the perfect opportunity to combine analytical thinking with the chance to express yourself creatively.

”There is a little bit of you in every line of code you write,” he said.

On the other hand, Verhine said he knew that he loved coding from the start. In high school, he started using a program called Scratch to create his own online games.

“Just finding online games is really the best way to get started,” Darragh said.

Although the fall season is now over, the Binary Bears are still accepting new members as they begin preparing for the Mercer Spring Programming Competition.

The team will start meeting again next semester on Thursday nights. Anyone interested in joining can contact Andy Digh, associate professor of computer science.