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A Face in the Crowd
Computer science student competes with Google's top 100

Sept. 20, 2006
By Josh Blair

Usually when you finish in 80th place, it's not something to celebrate. But for honors tutorial/computer science student Hiep Dinh, it isn't a bad place to be.

Hiep Dinh photo by Rick FaticaDinh finished among the top 100 in the Google Code Jam. Sponsored by Google, the competition, a celebration of the art of computer science, is aimed at students but open to anyone. This year, it attracted nearly 22,000 coders from Argentina to Poland to China. Less than half of the competitors made it past the initial qualifying rounds. Dinh was one of only seven U.S. finalists.

Along with the other top 100 scorers, Dinh received an all-expenses paid trip to Google's new seven-acre headquarters in Manhattan in September to compete in the championship round. The programmers had just 75 minutes to solve three challenging problems using Java, C++, C# and VB.NET languages.

And while he finished among the elite coders in the world, Dinh, who placed 80th in the 2005 competition in California, says he could have done better. One deterrent for him last year was a grueling journey. On his way to San Jose, his plane was delayed for eight hours in Chicago because of inclement weather. When he finally arrived in California at 2 a.m., the competition was just eight hours away. 

Dinh says the competition made him realize how many excellent coders are out there. Although he didn't win the $10,000 grand prize, Dinh did receive $750 and something that might be more valuable than money -- bragging rights.

Josh Blair was an external relations assistant at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, 2005-2006. Colleen Girton is director of external relations.

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