SnackDown: Strengthening the Global Programming Community

As SnackDown kicked off its 4th edition last month, we caught up with Anup Kalbalia, Business Head, CodeChef to get a sneak peek into how SnackDown is strengthening the global programming community by bringing together programmers from around the world to team up and fight for the ultimate programming championship.  

Tell us about CodeChef. When and how did it start?

Directi has maintained itself as a technology leader in India for a long time now.  Our backbone is built on the work of world-class programmers, and the cutting edge algorithms they produce to help us reach our audience efficiently. Proficiency in competitive programming has been correlated to one’s dexterity in creating innovative algorithms that take the technology forward. In the course of our evolution, we learned of how the programming community in India has traditionally lagged behind other countries in the world’s biggest showdown of competitive programming: the ACM-ICPC.

CodeChef was born in 2009 to address this gap. Our intent has been to act as an inspiration to the programming community in India. We want them to be motivated and strive to excel in competitive programming and computational thinking. Our platform seeks to facilitate the realization of the potential that Indian programmers hold, but is not currently being actualized. Our community has expanded by leaps and bounds. There are currently over 300,000 members and the numbers seem to grow day by day. We are looking forward to a time when this community becomes a truly formidable force in the arena of competitive programming. 

What led you to launch SnackDown?

When we were one year into CodeChef, we launched SnackDown. While CodeChef is an online programming platform, we believe that interaction of ideas is a prerequisite to promote technological growth. Providing a platform for programmers to come together and exchange ideas became the next logical step for us. That led us to launch SnackDown with an online round followed by an onsite round. The onsite event was universally appreciated, and we kept getting requests from programmers to host SnackDown again.

Over the next few years, our focus was on growth. The programming community would send us ideas and our team would work on them to put it in action. In a way, CodeChef was developed by the community! By 2015, well into having built CodeChef, we launched the second edition of SnackDown.

SnackDown: Strengthening the Global Programming Community

How has SnackDown evolved over the years?

SnackDown first started as a programming competition back in 2010. In its first edition, SnackDown had 639 teams of 3 members each from across India. Of those, 21 finalists flew down to Mumbai for the final round. It was the first time that a programming event at such a large scale was held in India.

In the second edition of SnackDown, which happened in 2015, we encouraged participation from any and everyone with a knack for programming – it didn’t matter if they were home-schooled or still-in-school. It was an age-no-bar contest and we were amazed by the enthusiastic participation from all over the world.  

Last year, the third edition of SnackDown saw 13388 teams participate from 2234 institutions/organizations from 92 countries. All of these participants were the cream of the crop of the programming world and we were thrilled to connect global participants with the Indian programming community. While they all knew each other with their virtual user names, we wanted them to interact with each other in person. Building these personal connections and growing the network is at the core of SnackDown. The high energy all around when the programmers from all over the world gather together is unmatched, and that’s what makes SnackDown so special.

Some of the most celebrated names from the programming world; like Gennady, Egork and Uwi, came under the same roof as their Indian counterparts. The finale saw 52 teams compete in a 5-hour battle, at the end of which Borys Minaiev and Gennady Korotkevich of ITMO University, Saint Petersburg, Russia claimed the title of ‘SnackDown 2016 Champions’.

After the SnackDown last year, the top global programmers actually took a training for 20 best Indian programmers as part of a ‘programming camp’. That was an exciting experience for the Indian students. 

Tell us about some of the most interesting SnackDown participants.

In its second edition, when we opened the doors to participants of all ages, a school kid, Mriganka Basu Chaudhary from Salt Lake School in Kolkata, made it to the top 25 teams in the competition. In fact, his was the only school team competing against 24 premier colleges from across India and institutions like Google and Facebook offices. It was heartening to see that we had such young programming geniuses in India.

Last year, we witnessed a brilliant performance by Team Deena from Iran, a one-member team led by Arash from Atomic Energy High School in Tehran, Iran. He showcased a phenomenal performance and played till the very end, becoming an inspiration for many. Arash won the ‘Best School Team’ prize and many hearts. Another one-member team that was part of SnackDown 2016 was lead by Malvika Joshi, the home-schooled programming prodigy from Mumbai, who went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when she was 17.

What can we expect from SnackDown 2017?

This is SnackDown’s 4th edition and in our attempt to maximize interaction between programmers, we have relaxed all restrictions on team formations. This time, programmers from around the world can team up to form a team, cutting across geographical boundaries. We have special slots reserved for all-girls teams and school teams to encourage more participation from them. This has been the biggest SnackDown event for us with over 21000 teams having registered for the qualification round. To make participation more fun and engaging, we have introduced SnackDown Hubs for online qualifier rounds at 27 locations in 11 countries around the world. For the grand finale, 57 teams from around the world will be flying down to Mumbai to play for cash prizes worth $ 20500, goodies worth $ 15000 and the coveted title of SnackDown 2017 champion.

We are excited beyond measure to take SnackDown to new heights this year. We are eagerly looking forward to meeting our participants, interacting with the bright minds from around the world and getting inspired by their ideas and enthusiasm.

SnackDown is now www.snackdown.tech! How do you think it will resonate with the community?

We are delighted to use a .TECH domain for SnackDown since the community is so passionate about all things technology. .TECH is a domain name that’s meant for us and is an intuitive match to what the SnackDown community is engaged in. In addition, we find www.snackdown.tech a great name to brand the community with!

For more details, visit www.snackdown.tech

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