Make The Connection

December 1, 2022 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan students David Shakarashvili ’24 and Rachel Leslie ’23 participate on the Pro-Gamers team during the recent OWU Programming Contest. (Photo by Sean McCulloch)

Code Red (And Black)

Ohio Wesleyan Students Hone Computer Programming Skills in Annual Competition

Contest participant Nick Mankowski ’25 plans a career in the Mathematics and Computer Science fields.

Name: Rachel Leslie ’23
Hometown: San Diego, California
Majors: Mathematics and Spanish
Minor: Computer Science
High School: Mt. Carmel High School

Name: Nick Mankowski ’25
Hometown: Canton, Ohio
Majors: Mathematics and Computer Science
Minor: Data Analytics
High School: Perry High School

OWU Connection Experience: Participating in the OWU Programming Contest sponsored by the Ohio Wesleyan Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Leslie and Mankowski were among 13 Ohio Wesleyan students participating on four Bishop teams in the 13th annual OWU Programming Contest. The competition, held Nov. 5 on campus, also featured teams from the College of Wooster, Denison University, and Oberlin College.

The participants worked to create solutions to problems created for the event by Sean McCulloch, Ph.D., professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.

“It was great to be in person again for the first time in a few years,” McCulloch said. “Having everyone together, I think, really made it a more fun and engaging experience for everyone. That said, having to work together on a set of problems that you are figuring out on the fly, under time pressure, is a new experience for the teams. So, this is hopefully the beginning of people getting back into the habit of how these things work.

“I’m impressed we had so many students from OWU doing it,” McCulloch said. “We also had a few freshmen in the contest, who are just in CS 110 (OWU’s first Computer Science course) now. So good for them for jumping in so quickly.”

Students Leslie and Mankowski shared their thoughts on the contest and its value in helping them to develop their critical thinking, team collaboration, and computer programming skills.

Valuable Experiences

Leslie: “These experiences help me get used to solving problems under a time crunch. I had to be innovative and persistent during the competition, two skills that would be very useful in a real-life programming career.”

Mankowski: “Experiences like the programming contest really help to put what I learn in class to use in context. Applying the problem-solving techniques I’ve learned in math and computer science classes in the context of a programming context is extremely valuable in making me better at solving technical questions I may encounter in a job interview.”

Lessons Learned

Leslie: “I got to practice debugging on my own. Typically, when your program doesn’t work, you can use the debugger built into the system. However, the debuggers were disabled during the competition, so everyone had to debug on their own. That’s not something I often do, so getting to do that definitely helped me understand errors more and be more analytical of my code.”

Mankowski: “The programming contest was a fantastic way to associate what I’m learning in the classroom with real-life situations. The questions in the programming contest were phrased in a manner that was not just technical, you were expected to create a solution to a real-life problem. In particular, some of the techniques I have learned in a CS independent study class this fall were very helpful in developing solutions to these problems, and it was very cool to see that connection from the classroom to a question that could be asked in a real-life scenario.”

Favorite Moments

Leslie: “I loved the community of it. It was awesome seeing a bunch of computer science students from different schools come together to do something we all love.”

Mankowski: “My favorite moments of the programming contest were the last few minutes before it was over. I really enjoyed trying to think of anything I might not have tried before to get the last question we were working on finished before the deadline.”

Plans After Graduation

Leslie: “I want to get a job in the computer science industry after graduation and then possibly go to graduate school in computer science a year or two later, once I have some more experience. Someday, I would love to be in a career where I get to use computer science to make improvements and meaningful changes in areas I’m passionate about, such as immigration or the opioid crisis.”

Mankowski: “My plans after graduation are to either enter the industry and become a software engineer or attend graduate school in math or computer science.

Why Ohio Wesleyan?

Leslie: “I loved the small class sizes and all the opportunities to participate in the OWU Connection. Also, when I visited the campus, I felt like I belonged.”

Mankowski: “I really liked the small class size and the opportunity to connect with your professors. During my time picking a college to attend, I was stuck between Ohio Wesleyan and a larger state school, and this is what ultimately lead me to my decision.”

OWU Teams and Teammates

In addition to Leslie and Mankowski, these Bishops and teams participated in the 2022 programming contest:

  • Bishops A: Nick Mankowski, Shlok Mundhra, and Hassan Mushtaq
  • Bishops B: Huzaifa Chaudhry and James Doerle
  • Pro-Gamers: Elijah Adams, Max Goulakos, Rachel Leslie, and David Shakarashvili
  • Team Brownies: Aadarsha Gopala Reddy, Aninditha Nair, Dhruv Sekhawat, and Aarav Singh