A few years ago, I learned of a programming competition in British Columbia called Battlesnake. It had been covered in the media.
Battlesnake and JRMPC share some common traits. First, they both involve creating a robotic “mind” (Battlesnake calls it an “AI snake”).
Second, they both work off a grid and, at least in later rounds, involve competing “minds” or “AI snakes” on the same grid, tournament-style.
Third, they’re both team-based events, though Battlesnake permits “teams” of one. JRMPC teams must comprise four students.
Fourth, their prize funds are very similar — $15,000 from Battlesnake and $13,000 from JRMPC (this doesn’t include $2,000 in T-shirts).
Fifth, they both involve some luck. Having the best mind or AI doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win.
Where they differ is that the main Battlesnake event is a one-day affair at a physical venue in Victoria, BC (though there are options with limited seats for remote participation). JRMPC is a national event, entirely online, and takes place over five weeks; the actual code execution occurs in our air-gapped computer.
Also, JRMPC is only open to high school students across Canada. There is only one level, whereas Battlesnake has Beginner, Intermediate (no longer available), and Expert levels for students and non-students alike.
And, most importantly, JRMPC is all about using Smalltalk, the greatest programming language in the world. Battlesnake supports multiple languages. (Interestingly, an AI snake has been written in Smalltalk which has done well in previous Battlesnake competitions.)
I won’t say Battlesnake inspired me to start JRMPC, but it’s an interesting coincidink that the two are so similar and started roughly at the same time, 2015.
To be honest, I don’t find Battlesnake very interesting but this is a personal opinion. I think the JRMPC competition is far more imaginative. Battlesnake’s grid is dull and boring. JRMPC’s Islands of Qyzmr, Concentric Treasure, and City Quadrant are cool beyond belief.
In some respects, JRMPC is more challenging than Battlesnake. The competition maps (or grids) are quite complex and robot strategies need to be very sophisticated.
Major enterprises like JPMorgan, Desjardins, UBS, Telecom Argentina, Siemens, BMW, Thales, Orient Overseas Container Lines, and Communications Security Establishment (Canada’s national cryptologic agency) have been using Smalltalk for years.
Lam Research is worth mentioning. This company is a vital link in the global supply chain. The electronic components in your smartphones, PCs, laptops, etc. started out as silicon wafers fabricated by Lam machines controlled by Smalltalk. You owe your digital existence to Smalltalk!
Canada has the opportunity to lead the world in software development.
(Previously published at smalltalk.tech.blog.)