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College Junior Wins Programming Contest--And $100KCollege Junior Wins Programming Contest--And $100K

A Stanford University junior won the first-place prize for best programmer last week at the first-ever TopCoder Invitational. (But we wonder--how well did he document his code?)

InformationWeek Staff

November 8, 2001

1 Min Read

How do you get the best 256 professional and amateur programmers in the country to compete for the crown for the best programmer in the business? Easy. Offer tough programming problems--and $250,000 in prize money.

That's also how TopCoder Inc., which seeks out quality programmers, discovered Stanford University junior Jon McAlister. McAlister won the $100,000 first-place prize for best programmer last week at the first-ever TopCoder Invitational at Foxwoods Casino and Resort in Massachusetts. After competing in two online rounds, McAlister was one of 16 competitors to make it to the in-person finals. After a full Saturday of programming rounds, the computer science major made it to a final-four competition and ultimately beat out even professional programmers to take the big prize. According to the company, scoring in TopCoder competitions is based on two factors: Intensity, or the ability to use a particular coding language well under the pressure of peer-to-peer competition, and velocity, the ability to write good code quickly and accurately. The next tournament is scheduled for April, 2002. What's McAlister going to do with all that cash? "Besides helping to pay tuition," he says, "I'm planning on buying an Electric or hybrid car."

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