Topcoder Open: A Spectator’s View of the Superbowl of Coding

November 20, 2015 Nicole Klemp

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As a volunteer at this year’s Topcoder Open (TCO) in Indianapolis, I was able to get an inside look into a world that as a writer — with zero coding skills — is still quite foreign to me. Topcoder, Appirio’s crowdsourcing community — and one of the top online technical communities in the worldbrings together top experts in design, development, and data science to solve real-world problems and bring new concepts to life. Members demonstrate their expertise and improve their skills while competing to win cash and the opportunity to do work for some of the world’s top organizations (like Honeywell and NASA).   

TCO is a 3-day event that brings the annual tournament’s top programmers and designers together in person to compete onstage for championship titles. This year’s 65 finalists — 8 of which were women — represented 23 countries across 5 continents, and included Google professionals, a computer forensic expert for the Brazilian government, and a freshman at Harvard University.

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I had the pleasure of being on photography duty at the TCO15 Algorithm Semifinals. The Algorithm Competition is a timed contest in which all contestants compete online and are given the same problems to solve under the same time constraints, in 4 programming languages (Java, C#, C++, and Python).

I was in awe watching these brilliant minds at work, solving complex problems that my right-brained self would never have the capacity to comprehend. But I think what struck me most was how these competitors from different parts of the world, from different backgrounds and with different native tongues, can come together on a level playing field to showcase their talents. It doesn’t matter what kind of family they come from, how they look, or who they know. Success is dependent solely on their knowledge and skills. That alone speaks volumes about the possibilities that technology brings — particularly to the Future of Work.

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In the end, Petr Mitrichev (pictured below) became the TCO15 Algorithm champion. Mitrichev described his experience in detail on his blog, and said, “This round had a few extremely nervous moments and a happy ending.”

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The other TCO15 winners included TianCheng Lou of China, who took home the title of Marathon Champion; Silvana Vacchina of South Africa, who won the Information Architecture title; and Lukasz Sentkiewicz of Poland, this year’s Development Champion.

On the final evening of the competition, Eleven Fifty Academy — one of several fantastic TCO sponsors — hosted a reception for TCO finalists and staff. The academy is housed in “the home that code built,” a 30,000-square-foot estate belonging to entrepreneur and inventor Scott Jones — famously known for developing voicemail. The English country manor-style mansion includes a mahogany spiral slide (when you just don’t feel like taking the stairs), a movie theater, and cutting-edge technology throughout. The academy’s great room features a huge fireplace and is reminiscent of Hogwarts’s Great Hall. The coding academy’s grandiose setting was not only a beautiful retreat for guests, but a fitting reception place for the best of the best in coding today.

To learn more about TCO or become a member, visit Topcoder.com or the Topcoder blog. To learn how you can bring talent and scale to your business using the crowd, visit Appirio’s crowdsourcing site.

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