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NIU computer science students dominate the IBM Master the Mainframe contest

April 25, 2014

Master the MainframeNorthern Illinois University computer science students claimed top honors in the IBM Master the Mainframe contest.

The contest allows students to distinguish themselves in mainframe computer programming abilities.  Participants completed the tasks for the contest during the fall semester from Oct. 7 to Dec. 28, 2013, and winners were announced this semester.

The contest consists of three rounds, each of which becomes more challenging as participants progress.

Mark Abermoske, an NIU graduate student in computer science, took fifth place in the contest of 5,601 participants from across the United States and Canada, the largest participation in the history of the contest.

In Part Three of the contest, NIU students Grant Blassick and Kevin Matesi received honorable mention status.

Ten NIU students, including Abermoske, Blassick and Matesi, successfully completed the second part of the contest. Others are Peter Bernacki, Kevin Haracz, Robert Harmon, John Lathrop, Wisam Mohammed, Jason Mossburg and Nathan Roberts.

Penny McIntire

Penny McIntire

“Our students performance in this year’s contest demonstrates that our students are highly talented and very good at programming. We put heavy emphasis on making them actually program rather than just teaching theory,” said Penny McIntire, undergraduate adviser and assistant to the chair of the Department of Computer Science.

The first part of the contest introduces participants to the mainframe. The second part focuses on practical experience, taking what the student learned from the first round and applying it to more extensive programming and application development and also engages participants with multiple operating systems.

The third part is the toughest, focusing on real-life challenges that experienced programmers encounter.

Students who complete the first and second rounds are invited to submit their resumes into a database accessible to IBM and all of its clients and partners. “Many students have received job offers through participating in this contest and being entered into IBM’s database,” McIntire said.

Abermoske, who is slated to graduate this December, reflects positively on his experience participating in the contest.

“I would encourage other students to do it, even if you don’t finish or win. The contest gets you thinking about problem solving in a way that you don’t get to experience in the classroom,” he said.

Abermoske also awarded a $1,000 scholarship from IBM’s Destination Z Enterprise Computing Scholarship based on his academic performance and an application which detailed Abermoske’s interest in mainframe programming. Mossburg, Bernacki and Lathrop also were also awarded scholarships from Destination Z, meaning that NIU students claimed four of the 12 scholarships awarded.

by Constance Ervins