Sunday, April 13, 2008

Helping 300 geeks invade Banff

A long, long time ago (okay, so it was only a few months ago) Dave was asked to help the U of A host the International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC) in Banff during the first week of April. At the time, Dave weighed the pros -- free trip to Banff, classy accomodations -- and cons -- which were drowned out by the "free trip to Banff" -- and happily agreed to volunteer.

Fast forward to the beginning of April, and things are looking a bit less rosy. Dave has assignments due, project presentations to prepare, papers to write, and then there's this ICPC thing thrown in the middle. With a somewhat less enthusiastic outlook, Dave set out for Banff along with a couple of friends on Friday evening, and hoped for the best.

The week, much to Dave's surprise, ended up being a rousing success. He helped with everything from stringing fibre optic cable and setting up a hundred computer stations to acting as a security guard during the competition and creating PowerPoint presentations of each day's events. Dave also got a chance to wander around Banff a bit, take lots of pictures of mountains, and spend some time in the hotel's hot tub and heated outdoor pool. It was also a good chance to get to know some of the 30 other U of A volunteers, who ranged from first-year engineers to doctoral PhD students. Finally, the fact that it was an international competition meant that Dave was rubbing shoulders with 300 students from Argentina to Australia, and from Cairo to Cambridge. The biggest surprise came at the end-of-competition celebration, which featured jugglers and a hypnotist. Dave had (foolishly?) agreed to help with the event, which was kept secret from *everyone* -- including the volunteers -- right up to the last minute. Thus, Dave did not realize that he'd be on stage in front of 400 people, acting as one of the hypnotist's stage hands. It was certainly an interesting experience, although not one Dave would care to repeat anytime soon!

This all sounds like lots of fun, you might say, but what about all that schoolwork? The assignments? The papers? Well, in the midst of all that (mainly thanks to some slow hours spent staffing the volunteer office), Dave managed to write a report, create a presentation, summarize survey responses for his TA job, and finish his last course assignment ever! All in all, it was a very good trip, and Dave was very happy that he took the opportunity to go.

What about Natasha, you might ask? What was she doing this whole time? She was working, shoveling copious amounts of snow, and waiting impatiently for Dave to get home.

Here are a few pictures that Dave took while he was there, to give you a sense of the place.

As someone from Ontario, Dave was very excited about seeing mountains everywhere

The ICPC was held at the Fairmont, which is a 100-year-old CPR hotel

This means that even the hallways are *very* classy...

... but the rooms are a bit small (I was sharing this one with a friend)

The conference was run by IBM, who gave us random free stuff, including this stuffed beaver.

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