FOUR students from the Chinese University's (CU) department of computer science have gone to Phoenix, Arizona, to compete in the ''Olympics of computer programming''. The International Collegiate Programming Contest, organised by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), is designed to test the contestants' team work and ability to program the computer to solve problems. The event is part of the ACM's annual convention and is the biggest competition of its kind. It is being sponsored by Microsoft, which has put up a total of US$18,000 in prize money. Dr Jimmy Lee, lecturer of Computer Science at CU said: ''This is like the Olympics of computer programming, and we certainly hope the team can do well.'' The CU team of Lou Chi-wai, Chan Wai-wai, Won Hon-wing, Tong Ka-leung, and coach Dr Hsu Sui-chi beat teams from Hong Kong University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, City Polytechnic, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Baptist College and Lingnan, inthe ACM (Hong Kong chapter) contest held in July. It was then able to automatically claim one of the Far East region's two places in the finals, because Taiwan was the only other chapter in the region to put forward a team. The team's members are the first Hong Kong representatives to reach the finals of the competition, which features a total of 35 teams, including one from Harvard. Dr Hsu, a Cambridge graduate and the youngest lecturer in the computer science department, said: ''The team has been training hard, and I think we can finish in the top 10.'' The team will be required to solve up to eight programming problems within a five-hour time limit. Problems will range from business transaction processing to robot path planning. Mr Lee said: ''There is an unlimited scope to the questions themselves, so we expect the competition to be very tough, and we do not foresee any obvious winner.'' Last year's contest featured questions on dividing funds and employees between the different divisions of a company, and the subdivision of land by a surveyor. The team is being sponsored by Cathay Pacific, which has donated five return tickets. The team members are particularly interested in meeting students from overseas, and exchanging views on college life, and computing with them, since it will be their first visit to the United States.