John Clevenger, past Contest Director
Kristine Rudin, past Contest Director
Tom Capaul, current Contest Director
This Guide is intended to provide Site Coordinators for the ACM Pacific NW Region Contest with assistance in understanding and organizing the many responsibilities with which they are charged. It provides an overview of "things to remember" in each of several areas -- physical site arrangements, contest personnel requirements, etc.
In addition to this Site Coordinator's Guide, there are several supplementary documents which will assist Site Coordinators. These include a complete set of Contest Rules, a Contest Schedule (in draft form, intended to be augmented by each Site Coordinator as appropriate for that site, provided the basic time-line is adhered to), and other documents available from the Regional Contest Director.
This contest is a multi-site contest, meaning teams will be in different physical locations in different states, but will be competing together as if they were all in the same room. This is all managed thru the contest environment software, PC^^2. Judging of all problems will be handled at a single site, being the location where the Regional Director is attending.
As a site coordinator, most of your work will take place in the weeks prior to the contest. You will be ordering t-shirts and food, reserving a contest briefing room, coordinating technical setup, coordinating the printing of name tags and certificates, coordinating putting together team packets for registration, coordinating the printing of the contest problem sets (AND keeping them secure), etc. On the day of the contest, (if the Regional Director is NOT at your site), you will also have to do the team briefings prior to the contest, and the awards after the contest. If the RCD is at your site, s/he will handle those duties.
The purpose of this document is to help you understand the process, and provide you with information so that you can perform your duties.
The program development software used by contestants during the Pacific NW Region Contest depends, among other things, on the official sponsor of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Presently, IBM is this official sponsor, and will provide most of the software development tools used by teams. Contact the Regional Director for the latest information on specific languages and environments.
Contest Control Software
The Pacific NW Region Contest is managed under the control of a software system called PC^2 ("PC-squared") -- the Personal Computer Programming Contest System. This system was developed specifically for running programming contests. Each site will be provided with a copy of the PC^2 software as well as an official contest image (typically some flavor of Linux). Installation of PC^2 is covered in a separate PC^2 Installation Guide. (The most recent versions of all PC^2 software and support materials are available from the PC^2 web site.)
The network administrator for the site should be download the PC^2 materials, so that preliminary network configuration, installation and testing can be performed, prior to the actual contest. To facilitate smooth functioning on the actual contest date, a "dry run" will be performed, sometime during the 2nd week prior to the contest, where all sites will connect and go "online" for a test contest. The date for this will be mutually agreed upon. This dry run does NOT have to incorporate all machines that will be used in the contest; simply one contestant machine, one judge machine (at the judging site), and the server are all that is needed.
Contest machines are configured the day prior to the contest, by using the Ghost (or similar). This means the contest lab must made available for the contest beginning at noon on the Friday prior to the contest.
3. Physical Site
Each team needs to be provided with a workstation; all team workstations should be as nearly identical in capability as possible. (These must also match, as closely as possible, the machines at the other sites of the contest.) Each workstation must have a logical hard disk. Workstations should have sufficient working area, including room for "desk work", so that all 3 team members can be seated at the workstation area. (This is the "preferred" setup. If space is limited at each station, it is possible to restrict access to the workstations to 2 team members at a time, but this means that separate rooms with desks/tables must be provided for the teams to do their "desk work". See "Work Area" below.)
Because the contest is distributed over multiple sites, it is necessary that there be free-flow of network traffic to/from the contest servers. This can be problematic in today's internet environment, with firewalls, etc. It may be necessary to get permission AHEAD OF TIME, to open up specific ports, etc., to allow the contest software to work. This is one reason for doing the dry run, as mentioned above.
Each team should be provided with a "work area" for program development and team discussions. Ideally, this would be at each workstation, but this is not usually possible. Therefore, classroom space near the workstations is usually the default. Ideally, each team would have a separate room; where this is not feasible, several teams may share a sufficiently large room. Work rooms should be as close to the machine area as possible; in particular, it is undesirable to have teams be required to move between buildings. Room number assignments should be done by random draw, and teams should be made aware at the pre-Contest briefing that the assignments were done randomly. In fact, a good strategy is to have the teams actually draw numbers from a hat at the pre-Contest briefing; this insures that everyone knows that while assignments may not be completely "equal", they were done fairly.
Note that if ONE site doesn't have room for teams at their workstations, then ALL sites must also restrict team access, to maintain a level playing field. So it may be that your site has room for all 3 team members at the computer, but if another site doesn't, the you will still need to provide team workspace in nearby rooms, and limit the number of chairs at the workstation.
Judging usually takes place at a single site, to be determined in advance by the Regional Director. Judging should be done in a separate room where no Contestants are allowed to enter. The Judges’ room should have ample room to house the number of machines needed for judging (typically 10 Judge machines, an extra machine for utility work, and one or possibly two Communications machines -- see below). One or more printers should be available in this room.
Teams must have access to print capability. You will need to provide "print runners" to distribute printouts to the teams. (Team printouts will have team numbers as identification.)
Team Disks/USB drives
No team is ever allowed, at any time either before or during the Contest, to insert one of their own disks/USB drives into a Contest machine. (After the Contest is over, less stringent rules might apply; e.g. if a team wants to save their code to take home.)
There must be one or more Scoreboard machines set up to display the current standings (the Contest Control software provides this capability). At least one Scoreboard should be in a location easily accessible to the Contestants but such that a crowd gathered around it does not interfere with other Contestant activities. Common placements are next to the Printer station(s) and/or in a hallway outside of the contest area (for spectators). If the physical layout is such that spectators will be barred from access to the Contestant Scoreboard display(s), a separate spectator's Scoreboard machine should be considered.
Each site is expected to be able to support at least 30 teams, (unless a smaller number has been agreed upon in advance). Combined with a single Master Judge, 10 Slave Judges, 1-2 Scoreboards, a communications (file transfer) machine, a balloon machine, and 2-3 print stations, this means a site should expect to need at least 40 machines. In addition, it is a good idea to have one or two spare machines, already configured, as backups in the event of failure.
It is very helpful to Contestants, Judges, faculty advisors/coaches, and spectators if people involved in the Contest have name tags or some other form of identification visible. Contestants should wear tags identifying their team; only people with legitimate team name tags should be allowed in the Contestant machine area. Other personnel should have name tags identifying their function; only authorized (tagged) people should be allowed in the Judges’ room, for example. These tags will need to be printed prior to the contest for distribution at registration. Team data for each site can be downloaded from the main ACM contest site. The Regional Director will provide each site with instructions on how to download this information. Name tag blanks will be sent to each site (along with other materials) prior to the contest.
Each team member, coach and volunteer receives a certificate of participation. These will need to be printed prior to the contest. The Regional Director will provide you with instructions on how to download this information.
It is helpful if each workstation is identified by a unique number (which can be assigned and posted ahead of time) and by a sign identifying which Team is working at that station. The Team identification signs should be made up ahead of time, but of course can't be posted until after the (random) assignment of Teams to workstations is made. Note that in the PC^2 Contest Control software, each Team is assigned a unique Team Identification number; every effort should be made to coordinate the PC^2 Team number with the Workstation number, otherwise, chaos results when you are trying to identify a team!
It is also helpful to have signage at the contest site, directing teams to registration, orientation room, etc. Signs outside the contest building indicating the contest location is very helpful!
Each site is responsible for ordering t-shirts for teams, coaches and volunteers. The colors to use are typically your choice (school colors are most common), the artwork for the shirts (contest and sponsor logos, etc.) will be provided to you by the Regional Director. The list of teams/sizes is available on the main contest web site, for download by each site. The Regional Director will provide you with instructions on how to download this information. Shirts should be bundled/sized according to team info, and given to the teams when they register.
PC^2 Team Guides
The most current version of the PC^2 Team Guide will need to be downloaded from their web site. Three copies should be printed for each team. These are distributed to the teams when they register.
It is often helpful to bundle all contestant materials (other than the contest problems!), such as name tags, PC^2 Team Guides, certificates, etc., into a packet, to be distributed with the t-shirts at registration time. You may also wish to include information on your university, graduate programs, ACM chapter and the like.
It is necessary to have a person (or persons) available who is very familiar with the particular configuration of the machines and networks at your site. In particular, there should be someone available who is an expert on the machine hardware/software configuration and someone who is an expert on any networks to be used in the Contest (including having access to privileged network administrative functions if necessary). Such people can frequently make the difference between a minor glitch and a major disaster from the Contestant's point of view. This person or persons must be available the day prior to the contest, and the day of the contest. In addition, this person or persons will be responsible for setting up the "dry run" in the weeks leading up to the contest..
The Site Director should enlist the help of someone to handle the contest-day registration duties. These duties involve marking a list of teams as they arrive, distributing contest materials such as name tags, t-shirts, certificates, etc.
Volunteers will be needed to put together the team packets and t-shirts, to help with registration, to deliver balloons during the contest, and (possibly) to deliver printouts during the contest. Typically these are ACM chapter students. All volunteers will receive a contest "staff" t-shirt (which should be worn on the day of the contest), a certificate of appreciation, and will receive all meals on contest day.
6. Problem Set
Problem statements will be sent to you within a few days prior to the contest. Problem statements will need to be printed on colored paper, according to the color chart provided, and distributed to each team (see below). Obviously, security is of prime importance; please do not allow ANYONE access to the problems ahead of time unless it is a direct necessity as part of setting up the contest environment. In particular, please do not release copies of problems even on the morning of the contest until AFTER they are handed out to contestants. Be especially careful about trusting Judges to "keep them hidden"; this could end up compromising the entire contest.
Problem Statement Envelopes
You will need to put together a Problem Statement Envelope for each team ahead of time, containing 3 copies of each problem statement (one for each team member). Each problem is printed on a different color of paper. (That is, if there are 7 problems in the set, use 7 different colors of paper.) The colors to use for each problem will be coordinated between sites, and will also correspond to the balloons handed out during the contest. The problems should be sealed in an envelope and kept secured until the contest begins. DO NOT GIVE THESE TO THE CONTESTANTS UNTIL THE CONTEST BEGINS!
During the contest, when a team solves a problem, they will receive a balloon of the same color as the paper the problem was printed on (or a reasonably close match). You will need to provide a workstation that is capable of receiving email, and 3-4 "balloon runners" to monitor this workstation and to hand out balloons. You will need to purchase the balloons, ribbons for tying them, and rent a helium tank for the day of the contest. It is helpful if the "balloon room" is isolated from the contest area, and from the judges' area. Note that during the last hour of the contest, the balloons will no longer be distributed, to heighten the uncertainty of who wins.
ACM has developed an on-line automated registration system for Regional Contests. However, teams must still complete the registration process by sending their fees to the Regional Director, who is responsible for coordinating all registration information. Each Site Coordinator will be able to download registration information for their site, the week prior to the contest. This information is used to print name tags, certificates, etc.
There will be no need for individual sites to collect fees on the day of the contest, as these will have been sent to the RCD prior to the contest date.
Once registration is opened, the Site Director should provide the Regional Director with the URL to a web page containing the following information:
maps or directions, as appropriate (the campus, the contest building, the local area, and the major routes to/from the area);
instructions regarding parking;
a list of nearby motels for teams planning to stay overnight;
any other material you feel is relevant.
8. Contest Activities
Schedule (all times PDT)10:00-11:00AM >Team check in (Breakfast)
11:00-12:00PM > Orientation/instructions
12:00-1:00PM > Practice contest
1:00-2:00PM > Debriefing/Q&A
2:00-7:00PM >THE CONTEST! (Lunch served during contest)
8:00 - ??PM > Dinner and awards(This schedule will be followed as closely as possible, but there may be changes implemented the day of the contest.)
Check-in Table and Breakfast
You should plan on setting up a "check-in table" for teams to check in. Teams receive a number of items, as mentioned above; distribution of these items is most easily handled at the Registration table. The budget allows for a continental breakfast to be provided to teams the day of the contest (e.g. doughnuts, bagels, coffee, juice), which is easiest to do so in the vicinity of the Registration Table. The Registration Table is normally located in proximity to the site of the Initial Briefing (see below), but this may vary depending on your physical constraints.
Following check-in, the first event which Teams attend is the Initial Briefing session. The ideal situation would be to have the initial briefing in an auditorium-type setting, but a large lecture room can be used also. Keep in mind that 50 teams probably represents nearly 170 people (with advisors), plus all of your local people. The briefing room should be close to the actual contest site if possible, but you will have to decide how to best handle this at your site. In any case, you'll want to provide signs directing strangers to your campus in the right direction.
Past experience has shown a number of topics should be covered at the Initial Briefing. For the site where the Regional Director is attending, s/he will handle this briefing. The site coordinator at the other sites will have to handle these duties, but will be provided with a "briefing list" prior to the contest. In addition, all sites will be in phone/IM contact, for the exchange of information and/or questions.
You'll also need to keep Contestants away from the Contest machines; there are always some who try to sneak in a "check it out". (Providing security for this room is a good task for one of your volunteers.)
After the Initial Briefing, Teams proceed to the Contest area where they are given a "Practice Problem" to solve. Their task is to write a program to solve the Practice Problem (which is usually something just slightly more advanced than "Print the message 'Hello World'") and submit it to the Judges for verification. This gives each Team the opportunity to see how the Contest environment works; i.e., to understand exactly what needs to be done to submit a problem. It is permissible to allow Team advisors and spectators in the Contest Area during the Practice Session, if your physical arrangements allow it.
The Practice Session also gives the Judges an opportunity to see how the Judging process works. Some Judges will be returnees who have experience with the Contest system, but some will be completely new. It is important to use the Practice Session to familiarize all the Judges with the complete process of accepting runs from Teams, judging them, and returning results both to the system and to the Team.
After the Practice Session, Teams return to the briefing room for final questions. During this time, the contest personnel must clear the Contest machine area and the systems are reset in preparation for the actual contest. Once all questions have been answered, the Site Director must phone the central site and coordinate the actual start of the Contest. Problem Sets are to be handed out at all sites at exactly the same instant; sites are to be in phone contact when this occurs.
You will need to make arrangements for lunch for the entire crew (Contestants, Judges, helpers...). Each site can choose the method it finds best to handle this. However, experience shows that catered box lunches work best for this. (Be sure to order at least 10% vegetarian.) The contest clock does not stop for lunch - teams are expected to pick up lunch at the distribution site and continue working. There is budget provided for this.
Once the Contest is over, it is traditional to have the teams meet at a nearby location for dinner and Awards presentation. It is desirable to make it clear to the teams that NO announcement of final results will be made at the Contest site itself, and that there is thus no reason to hang around (and hinder the Judges from completing their tasks). As is traditional, we will enforce the rule that the Scoreboard does not get updated during the last portion of the Contest; this means the final standings could change considerably -- and provides motivation for all teams to attend the Awards dinner.
As far as the actual nature of the dinner and Awards ceremony goes, it is up to the Site Coordinator. A common routine is to make reservations for a group meeting room at a pizza place or some similar restaurant; whatever seems to fit best with your site's ambiance. The budget includes money for supporting this (see below).
At the awards dinner, the site coordinator will announce the winning teams.
9. During the Contest
Questions to Judges
There will inevitably be questions about the problems from Contestants after the Contest starts. The overall rules are that (1) no one but Judges may answer questions about the problems and (2) all questions must be submitted using only the PC^^2 software.)
Someone from your technical team must be available to handle hardware/network problems that teams may encounter. Teams should contact a volunteer, and not judges, with hardware problems.
It is important to make Faculty Advisors aware that, as Judges or simply spectators, they are prohibited from having any form of communication with their student team members once the contest begins. (This is not an issue of not trusting the Faculty person; if it was, I'd quit. It is an issue of the perception on the part of other Contestants as to what is going on.)
Each team pays a registration fee which varies year to year based on arranged contest sponsorship. The maximum cost per team has been $100. With this fee, and the support from sponsors, your site should incur no actual costs. You will be provided with a budget which should cover all reasonable expenses. (Should you overspend, the responsibility is yours.) The Regional Director will inform you of your budget by October.
Of course, there will be details not covered in this guide. That's why there's email and the telephone! The Regional Director will be in daily contact with you as the contest nears. Do not hesitate to call or email with ANY questions! (One additional hint: you may wish to choose an "Assistant Site Director" to help you with the myriad details. I'd recommend it! But make sure that only one of you communicate with the RCD, or information could be lost between the two of you.)
Finally, THANK YOU! Without host schools (and their site directors and volunteers) this contest would not be possible! I, and ACM, thank you very much for your contribution of time and effort to help make this contest possible.