UNT student wins most difficult part of IBM's Master the Mainframe contest

Brian Powers, a UNT student.
Brian Powers, a UNT senior majoring in business computer information systems, beat students across the U.S. and Canada to win Part 3 of IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest. Photo Credit Ahna Hubnik/UNT.
Monday, January 23, 2017 - 12:54

DENTON, Texas (UNT) — University of North Texas student Brian Powers won first place in the most difficult portion of IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest for the North American region.

Students in nine regions worldwide competed against others in their region to come up with the most inventive solutions to unique challenges simulating real-life scenarios faced by skilled computer programmers. Powers won Part 3 – the final and most difficult section of the North American competition. In total, 4,174 students from more than 400 high schools and universities in the U.S. and Canada participated in the three-part challenge; however, only a select number of students chose to go on to Part 3, and an even smaller number were able to complete that portion.

Winners were announced January 22 (Sunday) on the contest’s Facebook page.

“I’m so proud of this student. His results are an impressive win that underscores how UNT prepares our students for the complexities of business while also nurturing their talents so they have the creativity to innovate when it counts,” said Marilyn Wiley, dean of the UNT College of Business.

Mainframe computers, first created by IBM in the 1950s, continue to be vital to the world economy. According to the IBM website, globally, 92 of the top 100 banks, more than 70 percent of the biggest retailers, and 23 out of the 25 largest airlines use the IBM mainframe globally. Despite this, there’s an employment gap in the numbers of new graduates with mainframe expertise.

 “There’s a huge void in the job market,” said Powers, a senior majoring in business computer information systems. “It can be jarring at first to use these systems. But the good thing about UNT is that the courses start you off with the basics, and if you put in the effort, you can get really good with it. Because of my experiences at UNT, I felt I had a good chance to win.”

For winning first place in Part 3, Powers will receive an all-expense paid trip March 4–7 to the SHARE conference in San Jose, CA. Along with students from the University of California, Berkeley and Georgian College in Canada, who won second- and third place respectively, Powers will get to network with some of IBM’s biggest executives, business partners and clients.

The challenge is made for university and high school students with little or no mainframe experience. UNT students like Powers took Parts 1 and 2 for the advanced mainframes course with John Windsor, professor in the Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences.

In addition to Powers, several other UNT students received mentions for successfully finishing parts of the challenge.  

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