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March 3, 2014Culture

Facebook's 4th Annual Hacker Cup Finals

Alex Hollander

Last week marked Facebook’s 4th annual Hacker Cup Finals. Hacker Cup is an international coding competition that happens over three rounds online and culminates in a final competition at Facebook HQ. This year, finalists came from 10 different countries, including Australia, Belarus, China, Japan, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United States.

After emerging from more than 7,000 initial participants in the qualifying round and advancing through multiple rounds of online competition, Belarus’s Gennady Korotkevich beat out 25 finalists to win the 2014 Hacker Cup Finals and a $10,000 prize.

Korotkevich finished first after three hours of intense work on a series of four increasingly difficult logic problems. The second-place finisher, Tomek Czajka of the United States, earned a $2,000 prize while the third place finalist, Makoto Soejima of Japan, took home $1,000. But the competition itself was just part of a two-day experience at Facebook Headquarters for all the finalists.

Hacker Cup winner Gennady Korotkevich with his prize and trophy following the competition.

Before the competition

The Hacker Cup weekend began with a day full of tech programming for the finalists. Facebook engineers spoke to the group about how they build at Facebook using infrastructure tools like Scuba and the HipHop Virtual Machine, as well as how different products like News Feed work under the hood. Later that evening, the group went to Oakland to see an NBA game as the Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets.

During the competition

The next day, the competition was held in a room full of monitors, headphones, snacks, drinks, and the Hacker Cup trophy on display. After a 10 second countdown, the competition was underway and finalists began working their way through the series of problems.

The logic problems were designed to test the contestants' abilities to perform complex equations and challenge them to think creatively and critically to solve the problems quickly. The finalists earned points by solving the problems correctly, but time penalties were used to break the inevitable point ties between finalists.

The first problem was called “Intervals of Love,” and asked participants to build off an earlier question from a qualifying round and determine how many sub-arrays in an inclusive interval were slowly increasing. Next was the 20-point “Lunch at Facebook” challenge, which asked the finalists to determine the most efficient way for hypothetical Facebook employees and visitors to line up for lunch.

The last two questions—“Fortunate Wheels” and “Tours”— were worth 33 and 37 points respectively. “Fortunate Wheels” looked at a game show scenario in which contestants trade points to guess the letters of a secret word and earn points when they guess right. But in this scenario, the contestant actually knew the secret word and the finalists were tasked with helping the contestant earn the most points possible. Finally, “Tours” asked competitors to identify how many visitors were hypothetically on Facebook’s campus, given an intricate series of constraints and conditions.

After the competition

After time was up, organizers David Alves and Zef RosnBrick checked over the results to ensure accuracy before announcing the winners and bringing the group to come celebrate on stage. Korotkevich was presented with an oversized $10,000 check and the Hacker Cup trophy.

How to get involved

To register for next year's Hacker Cup and your chance at the trophy, visit www.facebook.com/hackercup.

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