18 September 2018 – Team Singapore, led by Dr Steven Halim from NUS School of Computing and Dr Daren Ler from the Ministry of Education, won one gold medal, two silver medals and one bronze medal at the 2018 International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) held from 1 to 8 September 2018, Tsukuba, Japan.
IOI is an annual international informatics competition designed to seek, train and encourage interest in informatics and information technology. Students were tested on their ability to tackle complex computational problems. A total of 335 contestants from 87 different countries participated in the competitive programming competition.
NUS Computing faculty members and students have coached Singapore students for IOI, the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), and the Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad (APIO) since 1992.
Team Singapore was represented by four junior college students, Gabriel Goh (gold medallist; NUS High School; JC 2), Jacob Teo (silver medallist; NUS High School; JC 2), Jeffrey Lee (silver medallist; NUS High School; JC 1) and Teow Hua Jun (bronze medallist; Hwa Chong Institution; JC 1). Based on overall performance, Singapore was placed joint ninth in a field of 335 contestants from 87 countries.
Team leader, Dr Halim, who runs NUS Computing’s competitive programming initiative, said “This is Singapore’s largest contingent to date because Associate Professor Tan Sun Teck is serving as the International Committee member, and both Wei Liang (Computer Science; Year 3) and Ranald (Computer Science; Year 2) are returning as committee members. Also, I brought in Lim Li (Computer Science; Year 1) to guide the students as the Team Coach. I am happy with the results as we managed to match the third best result out of the 27 years of annual participation in the IOI.”
In total, three NUS Computing students represented Singapore as members of the Organising Committee and as Team Coach.
Gan Wei Liang (2013 IOI silver medallist; 2014 and 2016 Team Coach) joined as an International Scientific Committee member to help select, proofread and test the problems that would be used for the competition. Wei Liang recalled that one of the challenges he faced was related to the language barrier. However, he managed to overcome it through consistent and clear communication with the host committee. Wei Liang is delighted with Team Singapore’s performance, he said “Due to the nature of our training programs, Team Singapore is well-equipped to tackle problems that require more creative solutions, which are not taught in standard algorithm and data structure classes. This gave Team Singapore the advantage to stand out during the competition.”
Also, Ranald Lam (2014 IOI gold medallist; 2017 Team Coach) returned as a member in the International Technical Committee (ITC) to provide assistance in organising the competition on the contest floor. He said, “The ITC works with the Host Technical Committee (HTC) to set up the infrastructure. During the contest, we will respond to any technical issues and attempt to devise a fix. It was an eye-opening experience and I am amazed with the Japanese HTC, as they were able to prep the contest hall with 350 contestant machines, in just 24 hours.”
Additionally, Lim Li (2017 IOI silver medallist; 2018 Team Coach) joined as Singapore’s first female IOI team coach, to lead, inspire and to prepare the students for the competition. She mentioned that it was challenging to be the team coach, but the team’s result made it worthwhile. When asked on how she felt during the competition, Lim Li said “There was a live scoreboard and we could monitor the team’s performance at any given time. It was quite stressful but we would get excited when our team scored, as we could see their ranking jump. I am pleased with our performance and all four of our students did a great job. Also, I would like to give my appreciation to my friends and IOI alumni, as they helped me a lot by sourcing and testing the questions.”
The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) is an annual international informatics competition for high school students from around the world, and is one of the five international science olympiads. The primary goal of the IOI is to stimulate interest in informatics (computer science) and information technology. Each participating country is represented by a team of up to four contestants. Students compete individually, solving sets of informatics problems during two competition days, and participate in cultural and recreational events on the remaining days.
On each of the two contest days, contestants are typically given three tasks and five hours to programme working solutions to solve these tasks. The tasks are algorithmic, requiring contestants to demonstrate not only basic IT skills such as programming and testing, but also in-depth knowledge of designing algorithms, data structures and information theory.
Every year, the four Singapore students with the best scores in NOI and APIO are selected to represent Singapore at IOI. Singapore students have been participating in IOI since 1992. In 2020, NUS Computing will host IOI, on behalf of Singapore.
Channel News Asia, 12 September 2018