A limited opportunity.
On January 4th, MIT will be launching the latest edition of Battlecode — an online programming competition with $30,000 in cash prizes available (that’s almost enough for a Model 3 😎).
Participants code an AI player that needs to manage a robot army to defeat an enemy team. To win the competition, you’ll need to implement techniques like pathfinding, distributed algorithms, and communications.
If you’re a no-coder like me, who knows, we might see a no-code AI competition in the future 🤞.
In early January, teams are given Battlecode software and details of the game rules. Throughout January, you’ll build and refine your AI player, and compete in scrimmages against other teams.
At the end of January, a Final Tournament is played out live, and winning teams receive cash prizes from a pool of $30,000.
You can participate solo, or form a team with up to 3 other participants. The exact start date is January 4th, 7pm EST, lectures are held in the first two weeks at 7pm EST, and the final tourament is held on January 30th.
Battlecode is open to all, including non-MIT students, and even high school students. If you are an on-campus MIT student, lectures will be held in 32–155.
Battlecode has been a yearly tradition, with events going back to at least 2003.
Let’s take a look at some past winners, both as inspiration and as a way to see what works. In 2020, the project “Java Best Waifu” won first place, which wrote a 10-page “post-mortem” on their experience. If you plan on participating, I’d recommend going through a lot of past projects.
The winning team in 2020 gave some great advice to new players:
“If I had to say what are the most important factors to consider when building your bot, I would say Simplicity, Robustness and Structured Code.”
The team goes on to say that starting out with a sophisticated strategy typically leads to failure, so it’s best to focus on the basics, and figure out the optimal strategy as you go along.
Every year the game rules change, so you shouldn’t memorize details from past games, but this general advice may come in handy.
Battlecode happens just once a year, but there are plenty of other great competitions coming up in 2021.
Naturally, Kaggle Competitions are a great place to look, and as of writing, there are over half a million dollars in prizes available, including:
There’s even a meta challenge where you analyze Kaggle data for a chance to win $30,000.
“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.” — Ovid
Competition is a great way for AI practitioners to test their mettle — and even if you aren’t among the winning teams, this is a great opportunity to learn in a creative, innovative environment.