From the archives: “Champ Gu” conquers at the IOI October 6, 2011 — by Dylan Jew and Brandon Judoprasetijo Class of 2011 alumnus Albert Gu lives in Saratoga High history as one of the greatest mathletes the school has ever had. Although most people knew “Champ Gu,” (a name his friends adorned him with), as a whiz in mathematics, many did not realize that he was one of the top high school programmers in the nation as well. Class of 2011 alumnus Albert Gu lives in Saratoga High history as one of the greatest mathletes the school has ever had. Although most people knew “Champ Gu,” (a name his friends adorned him with), as a whiz in mathematics, many did not realize that he was one of the top high school programmers in the nation as well. Last summer, Gu was chosen to be one of the select four that represented the U.S. in the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) competition where high school students competed in algorithmic tasks involving computer science. Gu was awarded a gold medal after placing in the top 25. He scored 497 out of 600 total points in the two days of competition, placing 19th out of around 300 contestants from 80 different countries all over the world. “I have a lot of contest experience, and generally am good about keeping cool under pressure,” Gu said. “But this time I was really nervous. For the first time, I wasn’t just competing for myself and my own personal goals, but I was a part of something much bigger.” To qualify for the IOI team, contenders must compete in the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO) and take a series of contests throughout the year. The top 15 overall are invited to a training camp in late May where more tests are given to distinguish the top four, who make the IOI team. “Being able to represent the U.S. in a prestigious competition has sort of been a far off dream of mine since the beginning of high school,” he said. “It’s something that you hope for and work towards, but seems impossible to actually achieve.” The IOI competition was held in Thailand from July 21 to July 29. The team was accompanied by two coaches on the all-expenses-paid trip. On the first day of the competition, Gu ran into a seemingly incorrigible bug in his program. Faced with only half an hour left and only 100 out of 300 possible points, Gu managed to miraculously find the bug, solve half of another problem and end up with 250 points at the end of the five hours. ”I thought I had choked and let everyone down, so I was really relieved to find the bug,” Gu said. “If I hadn’t gotten lucky, I would have placed in the bottom half of all contestants.” Gu had trouble finding enough time to practice for the IOI while staying on top of school work and summer job. According to Gu, the differences in the education systems around the world proved to be a disadvantage for him. “Most of the top scorers were from East Asia and Eastern Europe, and I hear they practice coding for four hours a day.” Gu said, “I didn’t have as much time as they did to practice, especially going to Saratoga High.” In addition to competing in the IOI, Gu spent his summer interning at Facebook. He decided to apply for an internship around early February and got replies from both Google and Facebook. After being quizzed during two technical interviews on algorithms and programming skills by both companies, Gu passed both and ultimately decided to work at Facebook. “I know that Google is more prestigious, but Facebook has more room to grow,” Gu said. Interning as a software engineer for 10 weeks starting on June 6, Gu worked on a project and wrote code under a mentor. Although Gu cannot disclose his actual project due to legal restrictions, his code was eventually integrated into the Facebook codebase and released. “It took a few weeks just to get used to the environment,” Gu said. “It’s very fast paced and I didn’t know a lot of things about computers in general and the software development process.” Gu enjoyed his experience at Facebook, especially all the perks that came with the job. Gu was given free Facebook merchandise, complimentary food, along with the invaluable experience of working at one of the world’s fastest growing companies. “Overall, it was pretty fun and I learned a lot,” Gu said. “There was so much free food and stuff that I got pretty fat. [Working at Facebook] was definitely worth it.” Although Gu no longer has any competitions to work for after high school, he is pursuing a career in computer science and mathematics as a double major at Carnegie Mellon University. “Although my competition days are over, they will always be important to me both as momentous personal achievements and hopefully as stepping stones for future success,” Gu said.