They wont be attending the Academy Awards, but four West VirginiaUniversity students will get to meet a special effects developer for”The Lord of the Rings”films while in Beverly Hills March 22-25 for a world computer programming competition.

Martin Mladenovski, Benjamin Mays, Joshua Shriver and Clifford James will descend on the home of the stars for the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest. They will be accompanied by their coach, assistant professor Elaine Eschen, and assistant coach, graduate student Dejon Desovski. Seventy teams composed of the worlds brightest computer coders will compete in what organizers are billing a”battle of the brains.”

“This is quite an achievement for these young men,”said Eschen, a faculty member in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.”They have worked hard together to advance to the world finals, and this teamwork experience will serve them well when they enter the work force.”

The world finals presents competing students with eight or more complex, real-world programming problems and five hours in which to solve them. Cracking these computing conundrums is the equivalent to completing a semesters worth of programming in one afternoon.

The team that solves the most problems correctly in the least amount of time will be world champion, earning bragging rights, prizes from corporate sponsor IBM and scholarships. Contestants also have the opportunity to submit resumes to IBM .

Besides competing, students will learn how computer software innovation is shaping special effects in the film industry from”Lord of the Rings”visual effects developer Milton Ngan.

To prepare for the finals, members of WVU s team have enrolled in a special course to learn standard algorithms and quick, easy ways to program them. They are also studying problems from previous competitions to develop strategies for problem-solving and teamwork and are staging mock competitions.

The teams members have diverse backgrounds and academic interests, but the one thing they have in common is a fascination for computer programming. Mladenovski, from Macedonia, is pursuing a masters degree in computer science. Shriver is a Regents Bachelor of Arts student from Morgantown. Mays, of Morgantown, graduated in December with a bachelors degree in computer science; he is eligible to compete in the finals because he was still a student when the team participated in regional competition. James, the teams reserve member from Guyton, Ga., is pursuing a double major in computer engineering and computer science.

WVU s team advanced to the world finals after placing first at its contest site and fifth overall in the 2002 Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition in November. The Mid-Atlantic region consists of schools from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.