Students claim first place in Computer-Aided Design competition

ECE News

Julia Sullivan, ECE ILLINOIS
4/3/2018 2:41:07 PM

Story Highlights

Tsung-Wei Huang
Tsung-Wei Huang
Last fall, Chun Xun Lin and Tsung-Wei Huang arrived in Irvine, California, ready to compete. They had spent months balancing a rigorous training schedule with their graduate studies, research, and teaching responsibilities. It was all in preparation for the 2017 CADathlon, a day-long programming competition that would test their skills in Computer-Aided Design, Electronic Design Automation, algorithmic techniques, programming skills, and teamwork.

Their sacrifices paid off when they won first place in the prestigious competition during ACM Special Interest Group on Design Automation (SIGDA)'s International Conference on Computer Aided Design (ICCAD). They are the only domestic first place team in the last five years of the competition. Top honors have gone to teams from National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University in 2011-16.

Chun Xun  Lin
Chun Xun Lin
The duo said their success was possible because their adviser, Edward C. Jordan Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Martin D F Wong, understood how much preparation was necessary for the competition. Wong is also the executive associate dean of the College of Engineering and affiliated with the Coordinated Science Lab at Illinois.

Lin, an ECE ILLINOIS PhD student, had never competed in the CADathlon before. Huang, also a PhD student at the time, had competed previously in 2014. He and Haitong Tian (PhD '16) won second place that year.

Lin and Huang said deciding how to divide the work was a vital part of their strategy. They took turns at the single computer they were allotted during the competition. Time management was crucial, as they looked at the six problems in the areas of circuit design and analysis, physical design, logic and high-level synthesis, system design and analysis, functional verification, and future technologies. They chose to tackle the problems that seemed most achievable first, but emphasized the importance of knowing when to abandon a problem and devote resources to another.

What's next for the winners? Lin continues his graduate studies, and Huang received his PhD last December. He continues to conduct research with their adviser, including tackling problems like simplifying programming for computer clusters.

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