(Guest post by Mihai Patrascu)
A while ago, I promised the community around the International
Olympiad in Informatics that I would bring them into the conscience of
the theory community, and now I am trying to fulfil this promise. I
have written a short "
practical guide " of what we, as the theory community, should
know and why we should care. Below is your executive summary:
Understand. What happens when you cross homo ludens with
scientists? Imagine the Olympic Games, where you throw Computer
Science into the arena. In short, you ask each country to send their
best 4 high school students, who then compete in solving algorithmic
Appreciate. The problems given in the contest are meant to
challenge the brightest young minds in Computer Science. For a quick
reference, problems in [CLRS] are "easy". Many questions asked are
truly original, and thus can be fun even for a mature audience. Many
questions can also make excellent assignments in algorithms courses
(with or without a programming component).
Care. Informatics Olympiads are part of our intellectual
tradition, and a part that should make us proud. The parallel olympiad
in Mathematics is highly regarded in that community. A theory
community that embraces the Olympiad is a stronger theory community.
More practically, the Olympiad gives us outreach to the high school
level for free. We need a healthy flow of new talent, and the olympiad
is already motivating hundreds of the smartest kids to learn theory.
Our awareness can tell them that they are on the right path.
Most practically, we should be paying attention to it in the
admissions process. The International Mathematics Olympiad, which has
been running since 1959, has had a very
significant impact on theory.
Our very own Informatics Olympiad is much younger (1989) and the
contestant are only now coming of age. However, check out this
list for notable theorists coming straight out of the Olympiad. If
you want to know how well people are doing on average (and be
impressed!), check this
out. It is a statistic about the career paths of all Romanians who
ever participated in the Olympiad.