Atomic Games 2016 – Connect Four Challenge!

Atomic Object hosted the first Atomic Games in 2015. Our coaches and participants had so much fun with the event that we decided to organize another Games this past October 22. We were humbled by the interest and enthusiasm we saw from students this year, and once again, we really enjoyed running the event.

To get a feel for the event, you can take a quick look at some photos from the day.

The Atomic Games is a one-day artificial intelligence (AI) programming competition for college students. Our post on last year’s event explains the structure of the day and our motivations for hosting the Games.

Here’s a quick summary of the event:

  • Students competed in teams of two, choosing their own partners.
  • Students chose their preferred languages and tools.
  • We picked Connect Four for this year’s game, announcing our choice at the beginning of the day.
  • Atomic developers served as coaches throughout the day to help teams with their AI implementations.

Our Participants

Atomic Games 2016 Name Tags

We were able to start marketing the Games a bit earlier this year and were thrilled to receive 53 applications for the event. This really blew us away as we had 24 students apply in 2015.

We limited the event to 32 participants so that we could fit everyone comfortably and be sure to have enough coaches for each team. We were excited to have contestants from four of our local schools: three students from Hope, four from Michigan State, eight from Calvin, and 17 from Grand Valley. Our participants also represented a nice mix of grade levels with seven sophomores, seven juniors, and 18 seniors competing.

Here are a couple shots of our crowd:

Teams worked at our makers’ desks during the day:

The Tournament

First round

All 16 teams impressed us by making enough progress to compete in the tournament. While Connect Four presents as much opportunity for advanced AIs as Othello did, it was easier to get a basic player built, and we think that made for a more enjoyable event for everyone.

Our matchups were pretty exciting:

The first-round results were surprisingly balanced as we had two teams from each school advance to the second round.

Round of 16

We were suprised to have five sophomores and five juniors competing in the round of 16–the future looks bright! Both MSU and Grand Valley teams advanced, while the Hope and Calvin teams tasted defeat. This was especially bitter for our Calvin alums hoping to see their school defend its 2015 title!


GVSU’s Allison Bolen and Jonah Bukowsky impressed everyone as the lone team of sophomores to make the semifinals. They gave way to MSU juniors Jacob Fenton and Riley Annis.

GVSU’s Hoagies–Eldon Hoolsema and Curt Brink–were our sole returning team from 2015 (we had four total returning contestants). The Hoagies also made the semifinals but took the tough loss to MSU’s Timothy Kelly and Steve Jorgensen.


Both MSU teams made our final round:

Congratulations to our 2016 Atomic Games winners, Jacob Fenton and Riley Annis of the Electric Eels! They won $500 along with the respect and admiration of their peers and a place in the Atomic Games Hall of Champions. Congrats, guys!

Parting Thoughts

  • Our new building really made this an enjoyable event. We had plenty of space for the 16 teams to work and a wonderful common area to host the tournament.
  • I was particularly pleased with the combined effect of small touches like printed name tags for our contestants, a branded Game UI, and a Slack instance for communication throughout the event.
  • We really want to thank all of our students for making the 2016 Atomic Games a success. We appreciate all of the energy and hard work!