RC programmers went down to Georgia

by Scotty Smith on February 25, 2015

Picture of Thomas Lux, Natalie Wilkinson, and Randall Pittman

Thomas Lux, Natalie Wilkinson, and Randall Pittman before the contest starts

They were looking for a trophy to steal,
They lost their minds on the eight hour drive,
But they were willing to brave the ordeal.

On February 21st, Mercer University hosted their Spring Programming competition.  While the competition was originally started to give the Mercer University students a chance to practice their programming skills during the Spring semester, it has grown to a competition that hosts over 30 teams from states all around the Southeastern United States.

Randall Pittman Debugging his code.

Randall Pittman debugging his code.

Thomas Lux, Randall Pittman, and Natalie Wilkinson (All Junior Computer Science majors from Roanoke College) travelled to Mercer this year to participate in the competition.  Teams were given 15 problems to solve over the course of 5 hours.  These problems ranged from very simple text processing, to complicated mathematical formula calculations and 2-dimensional logic puzzles.

Students working at computers.

The Roanoke College Programming team diligently working on the problem set.

There were two divisions this year: Small schools and Large schools.  Four teams in the Small School division answered 6 of the 15 problems, including the Roanoke team.  Ties in this case are broken using a penalty point system, which relegated the Roanoke College team to fourth place.  The team from Clemson University placed first in the Large School division, answering an outstanding 13 of the 15 problems presented.

While this was not the result that students had hoped for, the experience was still a worthwhile and enjoyable one.  The team hopes to continue honing their skills to perform even better at the next competition.

Roanoke College will host the next competition the programming teams will compete in. We will host the Consortium of Computer Science in Colleges, Southeastern region conference this coming November!

Students exhausted after their competition.  This was a joke.

Thomas Lux, Natalie Wilkinson, and Randall Pittman after the competition.

The programmers bowed their heads because they knew that they’d been beat.
And they piled back into the rental van parked outside on the street.
Mercer said, “’Y’all just come on back if you ever wanna try again.”
CCSC is our next chance to prove that we’re the best that’s ever been.


A Man of Character

by Roland Minton on February 18, 2015


Bob Hudson, a Physics instructor from 1962 to 1996 at Roanoke College, passed away this week. The word “character” describes Bob as well as one word can ever capture a person. I’m using the word in both the “lovable eccentric” sense as well as the “moral integrity” sense – I think Bob would appreciate the word play.

Bob was indeed a character. He reveled in trivia and details, spinning tails about Fahrenheit’s invention of his temperature scale, contradictions in tax codes, and typographical bloopers of all sorts. He once wrote a review of a Physics book that was longer than the book – he even gave his review a title, punning on a President Bush campaign slogan with “One Thousand Points of Slight.” The following is true: one of the typos he found in the book involved a picture of a famous physicist at a blackboard. The picture was not mislabeled, but one of the equations written on the blackboard was incorrect!

He once found a mistake in the IRS algorithms for computing taxes. Think about that.

He went through the City of Salem tax code and discovered that the city had been overtaxing a duplex he owned. The city agreed, said they would refund money based on the five years of data they had on the computer, and would refund other years if he happened to have records. Bob’s office at Roanoke College featured many stacks of paper reaching above head level, with (for example) minutes of every faculty meeting. Five minutes after Bob left Salem City Hall, he was backing up a truck filled with thirty years of tax receipts!

Bob could be taxing.

But, he had a heart of gold and was a man of the utmost integrity. He set up shop at the Salem Public Library and elsewhere to give help to the elderly and others who needed assistance with taxes. He was truly delighted to help guide others through the maze of details.

He had restored a 1924 Model T truck and gave rides at the Roanoke Museum of Transportation. Upon hearing that out-of-town family would be visiting, he extended his normal hours at the Museum to give us all a ride and a memorable discourse on the history of the automobile. By the way, Bob drafted the Virginia law that regulates the sale of antique car rides.

Bob was a devoted family man, a man with an insatiable curiosity about life, and a man always on the lookout for a chance to laugh at the absurdities of life. A man of character, and a true character who will be missed.


This is a link to an article on Bob in the Roanoke Times:


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MCSP Ballers

by Roland Minton on January 29, 2015

Julian 3

Roanoke College has a long history of basketball success. Current men’s coach Page Moir and recently retired women’s coach Susan Dunagan hold the records for most ODAC conference wins. A lesser known, but more important, tradition is MCSP majors in the starting lineup. The list includes James (JP) Pennix, the well-named Ken Sine, Bryant Lee, Nick Proctor, Mike Murphy on the men’s team and women Dana Bowles, Marcy Conner and Liz Sloop, to name a few. The current men’s team is led by point guard Julian Ramirez (Mathematics ’15), with freshman Physics major Joey Miller securing the future. We think that this tradition speaks well for the quality of our basketball teams and our MCSP majors!



Bones and Books

January 26, 2015

The second floor of Trexler is haunted by intermittent clattering sounds! Actually, there is no need for a paranormal investigation, it’s just Drs. Taylor (Dave) and Childers (Adam) playing dice games. For Dave, this was partly research for his book The Mathematics of Games: An Introduction to Probability, recently published by CRC Press. The book […]

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Freeze Frame

December 10, 2014

There is an old saying that “the camera does not lie.” Putting aside the fact that PhotoShop does, the use of high-speed photography has revealed some fascinating facts. MCSP has such a camera; although it is very low resolution, we did capture a rubber band oscillating and verify the mathematical solution (found in Math 332) […]

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Computer Science Software Showcase

December 4, 2014

In continuing with the tradition started just last year, the Computer Science department held a showcase for students in the introductory Computer Science and Mobile App INQ courses to show the software they created this semester to a wider audience. The computer science students were allowed to choose their final projects, and were required to […]

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Q From RC: A Distinguished Alumnus

November 11, 2014

What do our graduates do with a physics or mathematics major? For years, one of our answers has been “assistant director of the FBI” but until recently I did not know the details of our distinguished alumnus, William A. (Al) Bayse. Some surreptitious sleuthing unearthed excerpts from books about the FBI, including recently declassified information […]

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Computer Science Succeeds at CCSC

November 9, 2014

Each year the Computer Science department takes a trip to the Consortium of Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC) south eastern regional conference.  This year the conference was held in North Charleston South Carolina, at the College of Charleston’s north campus.  While the focus of the conference is Computer Science education, one of the more fun […]

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The Meta-Meaning of the Mega-Menger

November 6, 2014

Fractals are infinitely complex – infinite and complex are two carefully chosen descriptors. The Menger sponge is one of the classic construction fractals. Start with a cube. On each face draw a Tic-Tac-Toe grid of nine squares, then drill a rectangular tunnel straight through the middle square. Here’s a challenge: you can think of the […]

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The World and Her Oysters

October 23, 2014

Amanda Wright is a Physics major at Roanoke College. A desire to do research brought her to Roanoke College, and she has always had an interest in marine life. The chance to combine the two in a summer project was too good to pass up, even if it was not always clear how the finances […]

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