High Schooler is Finalist in AI Games Night at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

By Audrey Dotson, Agile Marketing Manager at Correlation One

On Oct. 2nd, Correlation One held a Terminal Coding Competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private research university and space-grant institution, in upstate New York. Terminal is Correlation One’s newest addition to our talent assessment platform that was created to help companies train, attract and assess data science, analytics and engineering talent.

Terminal is an engaging AI game and coding competition that challenges players to code strategies that battle each other. Top players win cash prizes and potential job interviews with global companies like Citadel, LLC and Citadel Securities who sponsored the RPI game night, as well as competitions at the University of Michigan, and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

For a brief history on the game, and more details on Correlation One’s talent assessment platform read our article: The Future of Talent Strategy is Here.

The event at RPI was particularly interesting because one of the top 8 finalists was not an RPI student, but a local high school student, Jeffrey Huang. Although Correlation One is hosting these game nights at universities across the country, we encourage anyone to participate and join.

I wrote Jeffrey to ask him about his experience with the game night, and to get some of his tips and thoughts for future players.

How did you find out about the game night?

Every week I go to RPI to attend the club activities of Rensselaer Center for Open Source (RCOS), and one day I saw the Terminal game flyer. As I found coding and algorithms interesting and writing algorithms to automatically play games a good application of my skills and a fun challenge, I signed up. Although I was slightly uncertain of what would happen, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

As one of our youngest finalists, we’re really curious about your previous experience with coding?

My first experience with coding was when I attended a Scratch programming camp in third grade. Dragging and dropping stacks of colorful Scratch code blocks that did things was fascinating, and I steadily created small programs at home. In the next few years, I branched out to “real” languages such as Python, Java, and JavaScript. Taking online courses from John Hopkins University and attending programming summer camps helped me learn languages, and from writing bits of software in my free time, I learned a variety of software development tools, techniques, and best practices. Many a day was spent planning code, writing code, refactoring code, debugging code, and reading code documentation.

My projects include a website that automatically downloads math problems from a wiki, a tool that scrapes, downloads, and archives grades from the school website, a platformer game with all the physics and graphics coded from scratch, and a small site used by the students at my high school.

Have you participated in other coding competitions as well?

I have participated in several contests hosted by Codeforces, an online competitive programming community. However, as for hackathon-style algorithm competitions, this was my first one.

Congratulations on doing so well! We’ve actually been thinking about bringing Terminal to high schools. Do you think that would be a good idea?

I think this would be great for high schools. Many high schools offer a sequence of Computer Science classes, and anyone with a year of classroom experience is skilled enough to participate, write code, and learn from the experience. Algorithm contests like these boost programming skill and would enhance the typical CS education.

Do you have any tips for players?

Read the rules and configure your computer beforehand. Budgeting time is important. Analyze the game, considering the pros and cons of potential strategies and the multiple paths to victory; the more you think, the better you do. Consider adding adaptive features that respond to your situation and the opponent’s strategy and moves. Working with a partner or two is often beneficial and almost always more enjoyable.

And some tips specifically for competitive programming…

Competitive programming problems involve creating efficient algorithms to solve challenging logical tasks which at first seem intractable and only solvable through inefficient brute force but contain a clever algorithm trick. Lots of thinking is often necessary, so it’s important to put a strong effort into each problem; problems I am stuck on go into the todo list for later review and most eventually get solved.

What are your future school and career plans?

I will probably major in computer science at college, but engineering and math interest me as well. Within this general direction, I keep my options open.

How would you feel about a company who uses Terminal as part of their talent assessment and recruiting strategy?

I think using competitions like this for recruiting is a good idea. Attendees get the benefit of a coding competition, while companies get better employees.

For more information on datathons, game nights and what’s going on at Correlation One, visit us here!

Attract, evaluate and train the best minds in data science, software engineering, and analytics. https://www.correlation-one.com