Daniel Chiu Discusses Experiences Competing in Programming Following An Event in Kazakhstan

By Solomon Hammerly '16

Daniel Chiu ’17 recently spent a week of his summer in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for an International Informatics competition with fellow programmers he had previously competed with across the country.

During his freshman year, Chiu won first place in the National Assessment and Testing’s first annual competition. Along with this, Chiu also experienced various first place finishes and perfect scores throughout his middle school years. CatlinSpeak spoke with him about his experiences in these competitions and his time outside the country.

A previous IOI Competition held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A previous IOI Competition held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

CatlinSpeak: What competition did you most recently compete in?

Chiu: There’s a competition called IOI (International Olympiad in Informatics), which happened from July 26 to August 3 in Almaty.

CatlinSpeak: Knowing that informatics is a passion of yours, how did you get involved in competing internationally and traveling to other countries for these competitions? Have you competed elsewhere in the world or nationally?

Chiu: This was my first at the International Competition. We have a National competition known as USACO (United States of America Computing Olympiad), which I did in 9th grade, and I have been doing it for two years now.

CatlinSpeak: Do you have any siblings or family that have given you inspiration to compete, or is this primarily something you found interest in yourself?

Chiu: This was more of my own sort of interest. I don’t have any older siblings that have done anything similar. I didn’t get much influence from others since it’s not even that popular a competition in California or the East Coast.

CatlinSpeak: Outside of competitions, have you done any mathematics or computing work around the world?

Chiu: This year was my first IOI, but in 9th grade I did go to a math camp in Poland.

CatlinSpeak: Were there elements of a competition when you traveled to Poland? Or was it just a camp where you spent time computing with others?

Chiu: There was a little bit of competing, but it was mostly a camp with the competition being a side attraction. There was definitely more interaction and working with other students there. Even during the competition in Kazakhstan there was plenty of interaction with other U.S teams, we still played games and talked to other people.

CatlinSpeak: When you say “competition” do you mean that these programming problems are structured like a test or perhaps a more long-term project?

Chiu: The entire event lasted for about seven days. There were two days of competition for five hours, where you’re on the computer solving three algorithmic computer science problems. For example, you’re given an input, around one hundred numbers and you’re supposed to output their sum, though this is kind of a simple example. You’re on a time limit, and graded by how many “test cases” you passed.

CatlinSpeak: On that note, what are the differences between the computer programming you do during these competitions compared to what Catlin Gabel offers with their levels of Computer Science?

Chiu: The computer science at Catlin tends to focus more on “application,” whereas the competitions are more theoretical. The second level of computer science at Catlin is a little similar, but when I say theoretical, I mean that they’re less “real world” style questions.

CatlinSpeak: Considering your successes in these competitions, do you plan to use these as a platform for a future profession or interest in the mathematics or computer science field or is this more of a hobby or interest for you right now?

Chiu: I’m definitely having fun doing this. I certainly know that there are people who use this to build a career, but I’m not really sure what I want to do yet. It seems like a possibility though.

There are no immediate plans for Daniel to compete in a future IOI or USACO competition, but with an extraordinary record of successes in mathematics and computer science, new opportunities have opened up for Daniel and other competitors to establish a profession in this field.