Reported By Vithurshini Subramanieam, Banner by: Achintha Sandakelum
ACES ties up with Nenathambara to make its largest coding competition on the island to the next level
The Department of Computer Engineering of the University of Peradeniya has developed over time to the point where it is today, delivering one of the most esteemed Computer Engineering degree programmes in Sri Lanka. The Association of Computer Engineering Students (ACES), the official student organisation of the Department, guides undergraduate students through many initiatives, such as the ACES Hackathon, ACES Coders, Spark, and Nenathambara, which help them build their soft skills while bridging the gap between academia, industry, and schools.
In the series of achievements, the day to witness the significant milestones of two remarkable programmes, ACES Coders v9.0, the island’s largest competitive programming challenge, and the distribution ceremony of Arduino kits for the worthwhile Project Nenathambara, arrived on the 17th of December 2022.
A brief history of ACES Coders and where we are now
ACES Coders is the biggest annual on-ground coding (aka competitive programming) competition in Sri Lanka. The idea of this competition was brought up eleven years ago as a practice competition for University of Peradeniya Computer Engineering students to compete in online programming contests like IEEE Xtreme and ACM ICPC (International Collegiate Programming Contest). As a result of the competition’s increasing popularity over time, it has developed to the point where it is now the biggest and most well-known among Sri Lankan undergraduates, which aids in enhancing algorithmic and programming competency among university students.
Looking back at the year 2020, ACES Coders v8.0 concluded as a great accomplishment with the participation of more than 300 undergraduates from various higher education institutions across the island. After a brief hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ACES Coders v9.0 2022 featured a 12-hour overnight extreme head-to-head coding battle amongst more than 300 participants to showcase their greatest problem-solving abilities, was a huge success. ACES Coders makes students collaboratively design solutions for problems within a given time frame. Additionally, it introduces students to a wide range of IT career opportunities for their next step.
The event lineup for Peradeniya began with Pre-Coders v9.0: the qualification round for the ACES Coders v9.0, a six-hour coding competition for undergraduate engineering students at the University of Peradeniya, held on the 25th of November, 2022, in Drawing Office 1 of the university. The best 25 teams from ACES Pre-Coders v9.0 were chosen from more than 60 teams to compete in ACES Coders v9.0.
On the other hand, the university requested that institutions from all around provide a maximum of four teams for each faculty/department to ensure that each institute had an equal chance. Beyond improving the coding skills of the students, it also brings together the top undergraduate competitive programmers in the country in one place and provides them with an opportunity to interact.
The big event was held on the 17th and 18th of December, 2022. The opening ceremony kicked into gear at 2.30 p.m. at the Prof. E.O.E. Pereira Theatre, Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, with the greetings of Mr Randika Viraj, President of ACES.
The event’s chief guest, Dr U. I. Dissanayake, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Peradeniya, spoke about the university’s record of success and how this occasion will undoubtedly add to that accomplishment. Despite its modest beginnings, the Department of Computer Engineering at Peradeniya has grown over the years to where it stands today, with international recognition, and is now preparing for the next milestone, ACES Coders, which is being held for the tenth consecutive time.
Nenathambara, the social project
Yet, another major initiative supported by ACES is Project Nenathambara, intended to educate school students and teachers about Arduino and programming with the assistance of the Nenathambara group. It was conducted in two phases.
The first phase of the programme started on the 5th of February, 2022, and continued for four months before being successfully completed. This phase involved choosing schools and teaching Python and Arduino to schoolchildren through sessions conducted every weekend via Zoom in all three languages.
Moving on to the next stage, the second phase of Nenathambara, the distribution of Arduino kits to students, also took place on the day. Since some schools are underprivileged, this mission benefits many young people eager to discover the wonders of contemporary technology.
Dr. U. I. Dissanayake, Prof. Roshan G. Ragel, the Head of Computer Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Dr. Isuru Nawinne, the Advisor and Senior Treasurer of the ACES, and the guest speaker, Ms A.K.P.S. Kodithuwakku, Deputy Director of Education (ICT) of the Central Province, Provincial Department of Education, Kandy, were invited to the stage to hand out Arduino kits to the selected schools. The Nenathambara group representative, Ms Dhushintha Ramalingam, discussed the aims and purposes of Project Nenathambara as well as the methods used to carry them out during her talk. She also highlighted how it assists students in developing technical skills.
Going further into technical education, the guest speaker, Ms A.K.P.S. Kodithuwakku, mentioned various aspects and the importance of technical education in Sri Lanka. “Because of the lack of resources for technical education, sometimes it may further create a digital gap. As people in the education field, we should provide quality education to all; we can’t leave anyone behind and should work on it further,” added Ms A.K.P.S. Kodithuwakku. Eleven schools participated in the event, and students and teachers from each school joined to represent them, making the day special.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions, according to leadership guru Ken Blanchard. Moving on to discuss the experiences of both the programme’s organisers and participants, volunteers from the audience shared their thoughts. Speaking on behalf of the organising team, Mr Hashan Eranga provided his insightful thoughts and discussed their difficulties and how they overcame them. Following that, Sadinsa from Kandy Hillwood College and Abinanth from Hatton Highlands College shared their perspectives on the programme, what they learned from it, how it helped them, and any improvements the team would make. These motivating words encourage and drive us to carry on with the programme in the future.
Insights from the Head of the Department
“Speaking of how we have changed over time and where we are today, we may observe our steady growth.” Prof. Roshan G. Ragel shared a few aspects related to the event, including the two milestones and mentioning the importance of having both events together, which allowed university students to network and engage with industry experts in preparation for their industrial experience and schoolchildren to be motivated by learning about the university system and its perspectives. Yet, the combined event offers opportunities for people who want to explore their passions and for people who want to put their talents to the test.
Regarding the standard of the engineers the Department produces, Prof. Ragel further emphasised that the Department views producing computer engineering graduates as developing global citizens who can work anywhere for the global market rather than just producing graduates for the local market.
A dive into the battle of coding
After giving a brief introduction about the rules and regulations of the competition, competitors headed to their respective desks in Drawing Office 1 of the University of Peradeniya for their 12-hour coding mission. The competitors were expected to use their logical thinking and programming skills to come up with solutions to the competition’s realistic problems, which were conducted through the Hackerank platform. With the refreshments offered, all the teams worked all night long on coding energetically with a single goal in mind. However, the scoreboard rapidly changed, showing how extremely competitive the teams were. Moreover, it enhances the participants’ ability to work in a team and manage their time well because they must compete in the competition as a team within the allotted time frame.
The successful ending of the event
“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” The event was effectively organised by the organising team, which invested a lot of commitment together. Moreover, each and every contributor put in a tremendous amount of effort, and the team gained a great deal of knowledge about how to plan, execute, and wrap up the event successfully.
On day 2’s morning, Dr Upul Jayasinghe, in charge of the team responsible for preparing the problems and conducting the competition for ACES Coders v9.0, addressed the audience on the success story during the awards ceremony.
Finally, the ACES Coders v9.0 winners were announced and received cash prizes, and other participants who took part received certificates recognising their participation. After a 12-hour sleepless coding marathon and a lot of effort, Team BitFlippers from the University of Peradeniya took first place out of over 100 teams. Team BitLasagna from the University of Peradeniya were the runners-up, while Team DragonCoders from the University of Moratuwa became the second runners-up in this competition.
Mr Ruchika Perera, Secretary of the Hackers’ Club at the University of Peradeniya, gave the closing remarks to the event, thanking all the helping hands behind the achievement. Giving school children exposure to the world of coding helps them to broaden and realign their perspective, and recognising events like ACES Coders can undoubtedly encourage young souls to explore the limitless opportunities of university life.
The event was indeed a tremendous success, and all of this was made possible by the support provided in the form of sponsorship. This year, the competition was sponsored by Synopsys Sri Lanka (Platinum sponsor), Bitzify (Gold sponsor), GTN Technologies (Event Partner), Avtra (Silver sponsor), Clouda Inc. (Startup Partner), The Software Practice, Acentura, and Zincat (Supporting Partners), and Arteculate and Gauge (Media Partners). Speaking on behalf of the sponsors, Mr V. Kathircamalan from Synopsys addressed the audience, and Mr Farazy Fahmy, the director of research and development at Synopsys, mentioned the value of education and how responsible we should be to take care of the people who paid for it. Furthermore, souvenirs were given out to appreciate the sponsors for their enormous support.
From its beginnings 11 years ago, ACES Coders has come a long way. The event was completed successfully, giving all the participants a memorable chance to take part in a creative, competitive, and team-oriented coding session. Yet another milestone in the glorious success story! With this satisfaction, we expect to reach greater heights and achieve many more successes in the future.