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CS student wins ‘Monopoly’-themed coding challenge

Side-by-side photos of two buildings.

On the left is the University of Missouri’s Engineering Building West, which houses MU Engineering’s Computer Science Department. On the right is the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Computer Science Building. The two schools participated in “Miners and Tigers and Codes, Oh My!” Right photo courtesy of the Missouri University of Science & Technology

A bot built by University of Missouri computer science freshman Ryan Endacott swept the board at a small head-to-head game of monopoly against students at Missouri S&T.

“Miners and Tigers and Codes, Oh My!” was a contest initiated by students at S&T and arranged through HackerRank, an online resource group that organizes coding exercises between teams who want to compete and flex their coding muscles.

HackerRank also provided the platform, which in this case was a game of Monopoly, hacker style.

Endacott was invited by a friend to compete, but ended up being the sole coder from Mizzou that weekend. The faceoff took place March 9.

“They give you a set of inputs about the board, and you have to parse it, read through it and figure out where everything is,” Endacott explained.

On the day of the event, the two teams wrote bots to auto-play the game, the strategy hinging on the effectiveness of the code.

Endacott wrote a Ruby script to perform the compilations. His bot then printed commands to buy, sell or mortgage properties on the virtual board, working against the bot built by S&T students Chester Gregg and Andrew Brown.

“Well, Mizzou won,” said Endacott. “Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of turnout, but I did win against two S&T students.”

Endacott says competitions are a good way to exercise practical coding skills. Problem solving in a non-traditional arena requires more creativity and somewhat out-of-the box thinking — a kind of hacker mentality.

“You definitely learn by competing in something like this, and it’s a lot of fun,” Endacott said. “The competition aspect is great, and it’s fun to try out your new code against someone else’s.

“It looks like S&T is hosting an AI competition in April, and I might look into doing that.”

MegaMinerAI is a 24-hour coding competition hosted annually on Missouri S&T campus. MegaMinerAI 11 was officially announced in March, and will take place April 13-14.

Endacott was recently elected president of the Association for Computing Machinery at MU. He said one of his goals is to get students involved in more competitions like this.