MACON – Mercer University’s Binary Bears computer programming team placed second in the annual Consortium of Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC) regional programming competition held virtually on Nov. 12.

Mercer competed alongside 10 other institutions from six states, including Bob Jones University, Coastal Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, Francis Marion University, Furman University, Gardner-Webb University, Maryville College, New College of Florida, Roanoke College and Western Carolina University.

The competing institutions were represented by 16 teams, each consisting of four students who solved nine different problems using their programming language of choice.

“In a thrilling three-hour competition, the Binary Bears tied for correctly solving all nine problems with four other schools,” said Dr. Andy Digh, associate professor of computer science and faculty adviser to the Binary Bears. “To break the first-place tie, judges used penalty points based on time solved and number of attempts where one minute equals one penalty point and an incorrect submission equals 20 penalty points.”

Francis Marion took first overall in the final standings by virtue of having the fewest penalty points and zero incorrect submissions.

Mercer’s top team, which finished second following the tiebreaker, consisted of Erin Cargin, senior computer engineering major from Canton; Ethan Dorr, senior computer engineering major from Warner Robins; Zaina Khutliwala, senior computer science major from Duluth; and Jacob Strader, senior computer science major from McDonough.

“They collaborated brilliantly in solving the hardest problem, which involved implementing a variation of Wordle, the popular online word game,” said Dr. Digh.

Mercer’s second team, which placed in the top 10 by solving six of nine problems correctly, included Joshua Hynds, senior computer science major from Birmingham, Alabama; Stefan Mykytyn, junior computer science major from Los Angeles, California; Ervin Pangilinan, senior computer science major from Augusta; and Ethan Widener, senior computer science major from Box Springs. 

Dr. Digh praised this group for keeping its poise throughout and being one of the teams with a correct solution to one of the harder problems in the final five minutes.

The Binary Bears will be back in action on Feb. 25 when they participate in the Southeastern regionals of the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest. A total of 15 Mercer students, divided into five teams of three, will participate in the prestigious five-hour, in-person competition.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit

Featured photo courtesy Andy Digh