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NIU student computer whizzes prove to be ‘mainframe masters’ in annual IBM contest

February 22, 2012

IBM Master the Mainframe logoNorthern Illinois University computer science students turned in a top performance in the annual IBM Master the Mainframe contest.

The contest, which allows students to distinguish themselves in mainframe computing abilities, drew nearly 4,000 participants from across the United States and Canada.

Students compete in three rounds, each of which becomes more challenging. Those who advance to the final round tackle real-life issues faced by experienced systems programmers.

Four NIU students – Sarah Mackenzie, Subashree Ramachandran, Joseph Spinelli and Chi Zhang – successfully completed the final and most difficult portion of the competition. That number put NIU in a tie for first place among universities with the most students designated as winners or honorable-mention finalists.

The four NIU students also were each awarded $100 for being among the quickest to successfully complete round two of the competition.

Ramachandran also received a $2,000 scholarship after being named a winner in the fourth annual IBM Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship competition, which was separate from Master the Mainframe.

A dozen NIU students successfully made it through the Master the Mainframe first and second rounds, a feat accomplished by less than 10 percent of all participants. Those students included Zaid Alattar, Maria Gabriela Cervantes, Kevin Hamilton, Michael Keller, Nikhil Madhusudan, Timothy Rogis, Zachary Srog and Connor Hindley.

Students participated in the contest during the fall, with winners announced this semester.

“From year to year, NIU students have consistently performed well in the Master the Mainframe contest – and this year was no exception,” said professor Penny McIntire of the Department of Computer Science. “It’s part of the reason that IBM is one of the biggest recruiters of our computer science students.”

Students who completed the first and second rounds of the competition were invited to submit their resumes into a database accessible to IBM and all of its clients and partners.