The Contest – What and Why

Turing machine is an extremely simple abstract model of computation that is powerful enough to embody any computer program.
TIC (Turing machine programming International Contest) is the first international competition of computational thinking using a Turing Machine Simulator, with the aim of training students from all over the world in this challenging subject. This is the art of understanding how humans can translate “intuitive” problems into the domain of computers, and create instructions by which a machine can efficiently solve them.

In Italy, the national competition “Gara nazionale di programmazione della Macchina di Turing” takes place every year since 1996, engaging hundreds of high school students involved in computational thinking using Turing Machines.

Before the competition, the organisers will provide exercises and solutions, and students will be able to interact with a tutor to solve their doubts. Online training will start approximately in the second half of May 2021, with videos and material in English.

Skills required

Despite their simplicity, Turing machines possess the same computing expressivity of any modern computer when it comes to compute mathematical functions. Logical thinking and the ability to define algorithms using the simple simulator syntax are required to address the competition problems.

The competition tasks are of algorithmic nature but no knowledge of computer programming languages is required.

The usage of the Turing machine can be explained in a 15 minutes lesson and it is very easily understood. However, some training is needed to develop advanced skills.

Training for registered contestants and delivery methods

To prepare students for the competition, the organizers will provide educational materials to introduce them to the foundations of computer science via the Turing Machine paradigm. These videos will encompass some of the history which led to the design of modern computers, and give an idea to the students about how some hard problems in the real world can be translated into problems that can be solved with a computer.

Furthermore, they will provide technical material to teach students how to program a Turing Machine and specifically the Turing Machine simulator, which will be used during the competition. This latter material will include all the technical knowledge needed by the students to compete.

The material will be provided in two forms:

  • Videos and video-lessons, uploaded to the competition website and YouTube channel.
    (to be released starting in late May, 2021 and always available for those starting their training a little bit later)
  • Exercises that the students will be able to use to test their understanding of the video material, and train their skills before the competition.
    (To be released starting in late May, 2021, and always available to participants)

 

All material will be accessible via the website https://www.turingcontest.com/ . Some material will be available only to registered participants at first, but will be publicly released after the competition.

It will also be possible for students to interact online with tutors via a Discord server, in order to ask questions and solve their doubts regarding the exercises (registered participants will be directly invited to the server). Questions can be asked at any time using the server chat, and there will be live events for direct interaction.

The day before the competition (see schedule hereinafter), a simulation of the competition will be held, in order to give participants the chance to warm up.

Who can participate

High school students born after 15 September 2002 and before 15 September 2007 are allowed to participate. They will compete in pairs.

Where

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organizers have decided to propose a fully virtual edition in 2021, hoping to be able to continue with live competitions in the next years.

Terms of participation (International Contest)

In general, two teams from each country can send a request of participation to the following e-mail address: tic@fast.mi.it

Each team is composed of two contestants, supervised by one teacher from their high school. During the competition, the three members of the team must be located in the same physical room; the students must have access to a computer with internet access and a browser, while the teacher must ensure the students do not rely on external help.

In case, additional teams are welcome out of competition.

The students will be given a list of problems to be solved using the Turing Machine Simulator. Each solved problem awards a certain number of points that adds up to make the score of the team.

Applications are accepted on a first come first basis.

Formal applications will be requested after confirmation of participation.

No participation fee is required.

Prizes

National Contest

The winners of the “Turing machine programming National Contest” will be awarded a monetary prize of different cash amounts to be shared equally between the two members of the teams:

  • 500 Euro to the first prize
  • 300 Euro to the second prize
  • 200 Euro to the third prize.

The first five teams classified will be awarded with ten (one for each student of the five teams) free enrollments in the first year of the University of Pisa (any faculty).

International Contest

The winners of the “Turing machine programming International Contest” will be awarded a monetary prize of different cash amounts to be shared equally between the two members of the teams:

  • 4.000 Euro to the first prize
  • 2.000 Euro to the second prize
  • 1.000 Euro to the third prize.

Schedule

Teams can apply by sending an email to tic@fast.mi.it with the subject “TIC participation request” no later than June 14, 2021.

Please note that participation requests will be accepted on a first come first basis until reaching the number of teams allowed for the country.

Based on availability, late applications might still be accepted until June 30th, 2021.

Application forms with participant data will be asked consequently.

  • Second half of May 2021: start of the training online
  • September 13 and 14: National competition (for Italian teams only)
  • September 15, 2021 – 9 to 12 am (UTC+2)*: warm up and simulation of the competition
  • September 16, 2021 – 9 to 12 am (UTC+2)*: official competition
  • September 17, 2021 – 9 to 12 am (UTC+2)*: award ceremony and scientific conference

(*) Central European Summer Time

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