Nerd Club for the Win — Again

Last month, a team of sophomore computer science majors and student-athletes — Andrew Franklin, Jui-Teng (Roy) Hsu and Aidan Weingrad — took first place at the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges, Northeastern Region (CCSCNE) programming contest in Ithaca, New York.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Tuesday, May 9, 2023 10:02 AM

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Aidan Weingrad ’25, Jui-Teng (Roy) Hsu ’25, Andrew Franklin ’25 and faculty advisor Associate Professor of Computer Science Jorge Silveyra at April's CCSCNE programming contest.

This year’s victory is the second consecutive win, and the third since 2019, for a Muhlenberg team in the CCSCNE competition. During the contest, teams of undergraduate students have three hours to solve as many problems as they can. A tie is broken by the amount of time taken.

Their not-so-secret weapon? Nerd Club (the students’ nickname for the College’s Competitive Programming Team) and its faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Computer Science Jorge Silveyra.

All three of us have such a deep connection because of Nerd Club,” says Franklin. The club meets in person once a week to practice strategies for the competitions but connects almost every day to talk about what problems they’re working on. 

Hsu, an international transfer student who is double majoring in physics, says those who join Nerd Club “are fascinated by the scalable, algorithmic approach computer science brings to solve large problems that would otherwise be impossible to handle by hand. This ability to transform real-life problems into computer codes is one of the most applicable skills in all career fields, and we do exactly that every week.”

The team is unanimous in their appreciation of Silveyra’s mentorship as well as his contagious enthusiasm during the competitions. “Working with Silveyra is always a delight,” says Weingrad. “He's easily one of the most well-known professors on campus and I've gotten to form a very strong and productive relationship with him through Nerd Club.”

Franklin says Silveyra taught him to “learn how to learn,” adding that he lets the students know it’s okay to fail. But he also encourages them to work collaboratively and out of their comfort zones by tackling even more difficult problems. 

Case in point: This was the second CCSC competition for Weingrad. He says, “The first one was a fantastic learning experience particularly because my team and I didn't get a single problem right, but [I] grew a lot from the mistakes we made. This competition I got to be a part of an already experienced and strong team, lending to the great teamwork and team chemistry that we had.”

This student team shares a commitment to athletics as well. Hsu is a member of the tennis team and Weingrad, wrestling. Franklin, who is on both the football and wrestling teams, says for him being an athlete is a year-round job, one that “builds my integrity and commitment to everything I do on a daily basis.” All say balancing academics and sports helps them improve their time management and encourages their productivity. 

Nerd Club alumni also have a great track record for landing exceptional jobs after graduation, says Silveyra, noting that recent grads are at Amazon, McKinsey & Company, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “If you do the work, you’re setting yourself up for some really interesting opportunities,” he says. 

Hsu, who placed second only to Villanova last fall in another CCSC competition with seniors Jordan Greenbaum ’23 and Benedict Kohler ’23 (pictured), agrees: “Personally, I have gained so much more than winning at these competitions. Essentially all sizable companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft … require assessments similar to what we do each week as part of the interview process for technological roles.”

Three male students stand in a row, holding certificates

“Nerd Club is challenging but phenomenal,” says Silveyra. “We welcome every student who wants to expand their passion for and knowledge of computer science.”