University of Calgary

To Russia with code: Two computer science teams take on the world

UToday HomeJuly 2, 2013

University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon and team coach Darko Aleksic with members of Team Calgary Phoenix: Hichem Zakaria Aichour, Toryn Qwyllyn Klassen and Kent Williams-King. Photo by Riley BrandtUniversity of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon and Computer Science department head Carey Williamson with Team SANO members Omar Zaarour, Omar Addam, and Tamer Jarada. Missing: Fatemeh Keshavarz. Photo by Riley BrandtTwo teams of computer science students from the University of Calgary will compete in two separate world finals competitions in St. Petersburg, Russia, this month.

Team Calgary Phoenix

From June 30 to July 4, University of Calgary students Hichem Zakaria Aichour, Toryn Qwyllyn Klassen and Kent Williams-King will take part in the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM ICPC) World Finals.

The trio, named Team Calgary Phoenix, advanced to the World Finals after winning the Rocky Mountain Regional ACM contest. Using problem solving, programming, math and teamwork skills, they successfully solved eight of 10 problems in an intense five-hour competition.

All three students are members of the university’s Problem Solving Club (PSC), an SU club that trains students for competition in top-flight programming contests, organizes programming contest events and provides opportunities to further master computer science and mathematics. Team Phoenix was coached by alumnus Darko Aleksic, professor Peter Høyer, and PSC president Andrew Helwer.

Aichour is looking forward to “testing my brain's limits to the max.” Klassen says the competition is “an interesting opportunity to apply knowledge of algorithms and mathematics,” and he hopes preparing for it “will make me a better computer scientist.”


A few weeks after Team Phoenix competes in Russia, Team SANO — which consists of graduate students in Professor Reda Alhajj’s research group in the Department of Computer Science — will represent Canada in the Microsoft Imagine Cup at the world finals in St. Petersburg July 11.

As an international event sponsored by Microsoft, the cup offers students from around the world an opportunity to showcase their one-of-a-kind app ideas developed using Microsoft resources. In total, 90 teams are set to compete in this Olympic-like event. This is the first time the University of Calgary has entered the competition.

Represented by Omar Zaarour, Omar Addam, Tamer Jarada and Fatemeh Keshavarz, Team SANO is supported by Alberta Innovates and mentored by professor Alhajj. The group developed SANO, the first interactive system that monitors your health while you sit in front of your computer or mobile device. Team SANO won a national competition to qualify and will be Canada’s only representative at the event.

“When SANO decides that the user needs to practice, it keeps notifying the user that it is exercise time!” says Zaarour. “A 3D virtual trainer appears on the screen and asks the user to mimic the movements.”

“We are delighted to be sending these teams of talented students to the World Finals,”: says department Head Carey Williamson. "It has been about five years since we sent a team to the ACM ICPC World Finals, and it is the very first time that we have competed in the Imagine Cup. We are proud of our teams, and know that they will represent us well at the world finals.”