Q & A with Bowen Yu: Programming Champion

The Palace of Team Sports in Ekaterinburg, Russia, hosts dozens of basketball and soccer matches each year, but on June 25, a competition of a different sort took place there: the ACM’s International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC).

Among the teams competing in the prestigious annual event was Bagel Flavored Debugging—made up of Bowen Yu, a doctoral candidate in the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s department of computer science and engineering and Courant exchange students Fabian Gundlach and Danilo Neves Ribeiro.

Despite facing formidable competition, the “Debuggers” triumphed to be named North American champions. We sat down with Bowen Yu to congratulate him and find out more about the team’s time in Russia.

Q: Was this your first time in Russia? How did you enjoy it?
A: It was my first time. Unfortunately, because of delays and missed airline connections, we spent almost an entire day getting there. That, coupled with the demands of preparing for the competition, meant that we got to see very few of the sights most visitors enjoy. One day though, we did get to tour for a few hours with a guide, along something called the Red Line, which takes you past several great monuments, churches and other attractions.

Q: How did you feel about your competitors? What were the other teams like?
A: The one good thing about the airport delays was that we got to chat with some of the other North American teams who had been booked on the same flight. That part was fun. Of course, during the competition itself you’re not allowed to speak to anyone other than your own teammates. The other teams were the best of their region and very competitive. They are all hard-working, smart guys. It was their presence that made the contest challenging.

Q: Will you be competing next year?
A: That’s hard to say. There are age restrictions in place, so I might actually be considered too old. If I can’t compete, however, I would look forward to coaching the NYU team.

Q: Looking ahead even further, what are your plans after you finish your doctoral program?
A: That will probably be in 2017 or 2018, so I have a few more years to decide. I assume I’ll either enter private industry or remain in academia.