BU, IBM Kick Off "Tech Olympics" In San Antonio

  • News Photo 3423
    Dr. Donald Gaitros stand the 1982 Baylor team
  • News Photo 3424
    Contestants practice for the world finals.
  • News Photo 3425
    Dr. William Poucher.
April 11, 2006

As the Baylor University symphony orchestra played, nearly 1,000 contestants, coaches, spectators and volunteers packed into the Lila Cockrell Theatre in San Antonio for the opening ceremonies of the Baylor-hosted Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) world finals, sponsored by IBM. The computer programming contest has brought 83 teams from universities around the world for an all-out "battle of the brains". The 83 finalists were narrowed from more than 4,000 teams from nearly 1,600 universities in 71 countries.

"Everyone who is competing has shown up, we've had no cancellations and I think all the teams are ready for what is ahead. No major road bumps yet," said Ben Kelley, dean of the engineering and computer science school at Baylor.

As the host, Baylor is putting its green and gold mark on the event. More than 200 Baylor students, faculty and staff volunteers are acting as touring guides throughout the competition, showing teams the historic areas of San Antonio, such as the Alamo and the Riverwalk. At the opening ceremonies, all the student volunteers dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls to make sure the contestants knew they were in Texas.

In 1982, the Baylor ICPC team won the entire competition, the only first-place international win in the university's history. At this year's opening ceremonies, all four members of the '82 team gathered together for the first time in 24 years. Originally, 1982 Baylor team coach Don Gaitros, who is now the computer science department chair at Baylor, thought only three members of the championship team would be able to attend. But he said he could not believe his eyes when the fourth team member, Keith Hall, flew from Hbigelbereg, Germany to surprise him.

For the surprise, Hall disguised himself as a professor with a foreign university who wanted to speak to Gaitros about ICPC. Hall played that he could not speak English and had to use a translator to communicate. Hall asked Gaitros, through his translator, numerous questions about the `82 Baylor team before pulling off his disguise.

"I had no idea it was him," said Gaitros, who is also this year's ICPC world finals director. "He had a beard, gray hair, glasses and looked generally older. I am just so pleased the entire team is here. But I'm not surprised Keith did this because that's just the way he is."

"It was really a group effort," Hall joked. "Nobody could laugh or it would reveal my identity. I spent three hours putting on the disguise."

But all involved said the reunion of the entire '82 team is by far the best part.

"You can just feel the excitement in the air," said Terry Talley, who along with Hall, Jenifer Webb and Pat Keane made up Baylor's championship team. "We are all very happy to be here."

Several awards of accomplishment and thanks also were given out at the opening ceremonies, including the Distinguished International Service Award presented to Baylor staff, alumni and students for the "tireless, hard work" the university has shown playing host.

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