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Software Development Association (SoDA) students working on code challenges

On Feb. 27, 157 students from ASU’s Software Developer Association (SoDA) competed in teams at the group’s Code Challenge for prizes. Photo courtesy of JJ Robertson

ASU computer science students showed off their skills to win prizes and networked with potential employers at the Software Development Association (SoDA) Code Competition on Feb. 27.

In SoDA’s second annual competition, 157 students forming 86 teams of up to three people participated in the event.

“The competition consists of a three-hour long ‘sprint’ where teams answer as many algorithmic programming challenges they can,” says JJ Robertson, SoDA president and computer science student.

The competition included 14 challenges such as writing a program to see if a given paragraph is a pangram (contains every letter of the alphabet), or writing a program that converts a time from numerals to a written statement (“5:47” to “thirteen minutes to six,” for example).

Students put their skills to the test

SoDA graduate students Anupam Panwar, Chinmay Gore and Shubham Agarwal with their awards

Graduate students Anupam Panwar, Chinmay Gore and Shubham Agarwal won first place and Amazon Echos. Photo courtesy of JJ Robertson

SoDA graduate students Kranthi Davuluri, Mohan Maddula and Abhinav Kilaru with their awards

Graduate students Kranthi Davuluri, Mohan Maddula and Abhinav Kilaru won second place and Amazon Fire TV sticks. Photo courtesy of JJ Robertson

SoDA graduate students Yogesh Pandey, Bharat Singh and Mukund Manikarnike with their awards

Graduate students Yogesh Pandey, Bharat Singh and Mukund Manikarnike won third place and Raspberry Pis. Photo courtesy of JJ Robertson

Graduate students Anupam Panwar, Chinmay Gore and Shubham Agarwal won first place and each received an Amazon Echo for at least partially solving 10 of the 14 challenges during the three-hour competition.

Second place and an Amazon Fire TV stick each went to graduate students Kranthi Davuluri, Mohan Maddula and Abhinav Kilaru, who had partial solutions for eight challenges, tying with the third place team of graduate students Yogesh Pandey, Bharat Singh and Mukund Manikarnike ­— who won Raspberry Pi boards. The tie was broken by the second place team’s solutions passing more test cases showing their programs worked properly.

SoDA and sponsor State Farm raffled off other prizes including a tablet, Raspberry Pi, and two quadcopters.

Undergraduate and graduate students didn’t just get to flex their programming muscles and win prizes – representatives from Workiva, State Farm, Connexta, Google and Microsoft mingled with the participants and discussed opportunities at their companies.

SoDA hosts and participates in competitions statewide

Participation more than doubled from the 2015 competition’s 60 participants after SoDA officers applied what they learned from last year’s event and upped the ante with bigger prizes. Robertson says the association officers’ hard work paid off, especially the efforts of competition director and computer science student Thomas Forrest.

“SoDA officer Thomas Forrest is responsible for coding competition planning and logistics,” Robertson says. “He blew away everyone’s expectations for this year and did a fantastic job.”

Next year Robertson says they plan to add prizes for best undergraduate as well as best graduate teams to help even the playing field.

The SoDA Code Challenge is the largest competition SoDA puts on each year, but they also host and compete in smaller events throughout the year, including an American Express competition earlier this semester and an upcoming Zappos competition in April.

They also travel to events; earlier this year 113 students traveled down to the Hack Arizona 2016 hackathon at the University of Arizona for a 36-hour-long project-building session where students take ideas from the initial planning stage to execution.

Members build technical skills, interview skills and a developer community

Along with hosting competitions, SoDA positions itself as a group to help students get access to internship and job interviews and preparation, gain experience, work on projects to showcase and develop skills, and to meet a community of passionate and dedicated student developers.

“We want SoDA to be a resource for ASU students that helps them prepare for getting highly competitive software engineering internships and careers,” Robertson says. “We do mock technical interviews to give students the opportunity to practice answering technical questions in an interview-like atmosphere.”

SoDA faculty advisor and Assistant Professor Adam Doupé is very proud of the work Robertson, Forrest, and the other officers are doing with the association. Doupé says they plan, organize and execute events all on their own and also do great work for ASU’s aspiring software developers.

“I strongly believe that they are providing a critical service to CIDSE and all interested students,” Doupé says. “I really hope that the undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering take advantage of the amazing events that SoDA is providing.”

Membership is open free of charge to anyone who’d like to join the organization, which has been around since 2009. SoDA holds meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Brickyard Artisan Court where students can work on projects they can use to demonstrate their skills to potential employers.

“Personal software projects are really important to showcase when applying for jobs, so one of our two meetings per week are typically dedicated to working on SoDA-based projects,” Robertson says. “We currently have projects involving Android development, Minecraft plugin development and a few web-app projects.”

Meetings can also include industry guest speakers, technical tutorial workshops and research and technical presentations from its sponsors, faculty and members. Members can choose meetings with topics of interest to them.

As part of the Fulton Schools’ Dean’s Funding program SoDA also does outreach with FIRST LEGO League events, homecoming and freshman welcome events, high school engineering outreach events and more.