27 August 2010

How to get started with TopCoder?

by  Vaibhav Pandey

After successfully coding the first time in Topcoder, I really feel greatful in sharing my experience with all. Simply, it was great. Got to learn a lot of new things. I have started it too late but being in UPTU and that too in a college where seniors are not that into coding, it was still very early.. ;)

So, I am writing this post to acquaint my mates with the TopCoder Competitions. What I m goin to discuss is all about the algorithm competitions.
Top Coder is a programming arena where you are given a set of problems and you have to solve them (in your preferred language) in a given amount of time. There are some simple steps to follow before starting with the coding competition:

  • Goto Topcoder site and get yourself registered.
  • Now when you are registered, download the Topcoder arena. You will need Java to be installed in your system for making the applet run.
  • Get yourself an editor(I use KawigiEdit). The editor helps in generating the code required for the competition. If you need help to install it.. read this.
  • Start the contest application and start navigating. There are practice rooms where you can practice the earlier SRM’s(single round matches).

SRM are the single round matches which are organized twice every month. You are given three problems to solve. What you need to do is to generate the code using KawigiEdit and simply put your logic in the function provided.
The important point about TopCoder is that you don’t use the main() method in your code. All your logic is dumped inside a function and you have to return your answer instead of printing it.
The several phases of the competition are:

  • Coding Phase: During this phase you are given 75mins of time to solve as many problems as you can. What you need to do is to write your code, compile it and after rigourous testing on test cases provided and some of your own test cases, “submit” it.
  • Intermission: 5mins intermission.. I hear a song usually.. :)
  • Challenge Phase: During this phase in 20mins time any of the room members can see your code or you can see theirs. If anyone finds anything wrong with anyone’s code, he can simply challenge it. If he succeeds the submitted problem will be discarded and points will fall back to 0.00
  • System Testing Phase: After the challenge phase comes System Testing Phase. This takes a fare bit of time. After near about 20mins you can goto tools and room summary for checking whether your code passed the System Testing or not.

After about 2 hrs of play the result is out..!! If you see your name coloured (Green,Blue,Yellow,Red), feel like a champ. If you are Grey, you need to practice more and more. The colors listed above are in hierarchical order.. i mean Red is the highest pointer(2200+) whereas grey is the lowest(001-899).

Being associated with IEEE, TopCoder is a good platform for being recruited. Moreover, it hons your programming skills, giving your career a boost.

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