Google holds contest for developers

If calculating the maximum height at which an egg won't break when dropped while sacrificing the least number of eggs sounds like a worthy challenge to a programmer, then this year's Google Code Jam may be of interest.

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If calculating the maximum height at which an egg won't break when dropped while sacrificing the least number of eggs sounds like a worthy challenge to a programmer, then this year's Google Code Jam may be of interest.

The event by Google is intended to challenge professional and student programmers with logic and programming problems that require both smarts and creativity.

And while the egg problem doesn't sound remotely relevant to today's business, Bartholomew Furrow, Tech Lead for Google Code Jam, said what's really important are the skills upon which the problem draws. He said contestants will ask "does this fit in the mould of any kind of problem that I'm familiar with or can solve with an existing skill?"

And if the programmer lacks the necessary skill, then creative thinking and collaborating with peers will be in order. Incidentally, that's the sort of approach that Google engineers apply on a daily basis, said Furrow.

Interested programmers can begin registering and continue to do so throughout the qualification round that ends 17 July. This preliminary stage puts registrants through three rounds of problem solving in order to whittle the number down to 500 globally.

A new stage, included before the finals this year, is the regional semi-final where the lucky 500 compete at their local Google office. Canadians who make it among the 500 will convene at the Google offices in Ontario.

Google is "a little vain with its offices around the world," said Furrow, adding that one purpose of the semi-finals is to showcase the premises to potential future employees. Another aim, he said, is to relay the message that if they are interested in joining Google, there are options besides moving to the Mountain View headquarters. "So it really gives it a local flavour."

After the playoffs, the top 100 semi-finalists from around the world will gather to compete at Google's headquarters in Mountain View where they'll vie for the US$10,000 grand prize.

Google Code Jam is relevant to the IT community, said Furrow, "because it reaches out to a segment of the population that is really interested in problem solving and competition." Furthermore, those interested people can meet others with similar interests from around the world.

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