City Councilman Helps Show Off Rapid City

As you look at our ICPCNews staff during the World Finals, be on the lookout for Ritchie Nordstrom. Ritchie is helping with photos and social media, encouraging people to engage with the world of competitive programming. 

He already works at engaging the public as a representative for Ward 2 in Rapid City on the city council. He told us he hopes the ICPC competitors will leave with a little piece of Rapid City and an understanding of the beauty of this land and its people. 

Downtown Rapid City Magazine 2017

Downtown Rapid City Magazine 2017

The largest mountain carving in the world: One of the great ICPC...

The largest mountain carving in the world: One of the great ICPC 2017 venues!

Gold dreams became a ghost town in South Dakota

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

The Black Hills is known for its rich history in mining for gold and other precious minerals. Spokane was once a town hopeful in the search for these gold and riches, but withered into the ghost town that remains today.


Between 1873-1930, more than four-hundred ghost towns popped up and disappeared in the Black Hills. Spokane was one of these towns, founded in 1890 in hopes of prospering from the gold in its location. Unfortunately, pioneers of the Black Hills Gold Rush did not find much gold here, but instead discovered silver, copper, zinc, mica, and graphite. Mining these materials brought people to the area to form the small community of Spokane. Spokane saw its most prosperous year in 1927, when the town brought in $114,742. This money went to a new schoolhouse and updates on some town buildings. After this year, however, the small community could not bring in enough money to keep the town going, and by 1940, the town was mostly abandoned. The only person that remained was a watchman, who stayed there until 1980, when the town officially became a ghost town.


To get to the town today, a person must take Highway 16A to Iron Mountain Rd., and then follow it to Forest Service Road 330. Many of the town’s buildings have been burned down by the Forest Service because of structural hazards, but there are a few buildings that still remain, as well as many foundations of previous buildings. The location of the once hopeful town is a popular spot for ghost town hunters, who search for the abandoned towns that once held so many treasures. The area is also a photographer’s playground, as the various structures and vehicles left behind make for fantastic backgrounds and props. Historical buildings and various rusting items are not the only thing to be explored on these grounds. Two geocaches are located in the ghost town, which make for a good combination of old and new treasures. The town is a place that can be explored by all, and all leave with a different adventure.


Gussiaas, Mike. “Finding Black Hills Ghost Towns – Spokane, SD.” Black Hills & Badlands of South Dakota. Black Hills Travel Blog, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2017.

Coppess, Chad. “Spokane Ghost Town.” Dakotagraph. N.p., 16 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

“Spokane, SD - Black Hills Ghost Town Now Home to Geocaches.” Exploring Off the Beaten Path. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

Out and about in Rapid City: Art Alley

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Art Alley is a public alley in Downtown Rapid City that is covered in spray paint art. Since 2004 the alley has been painted and repainted by local and non-local artists.

Art Alley has been an important part of Rapid City culture for years. It’s a local hub for some of the best art that Rapid City has to offer. The art can range anywhere from America’s sweetheart Homer Simpson to powerful murals of the Native American people.

Located in downtown Rapid City, Art Alley is a public collection of art. In 2003, the alleyway, between Sixth and Seventh Street and between Main and Saint Joseph Street, started as a place for local artists to hang their paintings (most of which were canvas paintings) on the walls of the alley. Over the next year, Art Alley slowly evolved from a place to display their paintings to a place where the art covered the walls rather than the canvas.

Art Alley has been home to Rapid City’s own collection of government sanctioned graffiti for over ten years now and, with permission from the building owner, artists can apply for a permit (online) to paint the walls in the alley. There is only so much room on the walls, so the only rule is that if you are going to paint over something old, make it just as good as before or better.

Part of the beauty of Art Alley is that it’s always getting better and always changing, constantly being painted and repainted over and over. So make sure you make your way there when you’re in Rapid City because each visit is different and there is always something in Art Alley, that is new and beautiful, to catch your eye.

Go back to the American West at Deadwood

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Deadwood is a small historic town located in the scenic black hills of South Dakota. Its early days as a boom town can only be described as wild; shootouts, murders, gambling, and prostitutes was the norm. Even its founding was scandalous, built upon Native American land it was not considered a legal town for years after its founding. Nowadays visitors can see many original buildings that recount the short lawless history that defines Deadwood.

Boom beginnings

The history of Deadwood starts in 1874, in that year gold was discovered in the Black Hills kicking off the last great gold rush. In April of 1876 Deadwood was officially (illegally) laid out, located next to a gulch full of dead trees, it only took one month for multiple brothels and saloons to crop up and reach a population in the thousands.  

The Outlaws Arrive

Later that year a wagon train carrying commodities was organized to travel from Colorado, among its cargo was Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Madam Mustache, and enough prostitutes for a boom town. Needless to say gunfights, murders, drunken brawls, gambling, and substance abuse was rampant. As a testament to this insanity the western icon Wild Bill only made it one month before meeting his end at a gambling table.  

Taming of Deadwood

Sadly this lawless, drunken, and prostitute laden madness wasn’t to last. In the late 1870’s gold panning was becoming less effective and attention switched to mining. Nearby Homestake Mine was established in this time, and continued to operate until 2002 when it was opened to tourists and scientists. This lead to a “clearing out” of the rougher crowd and establishment of a prosperous town.  

Early Adopter

In 1879 electricity was brought to Deadwood, four years after its invention, and one year after most major cities started introducing it. This put the small town on the cutting edge of 1880’s technology, a position it would keep well into the 1920’s due to the early installation of an electric tram connecting Deadwood and Lead. All this development and population growth lead to the incorporation of Deadwood in early 1881, 8 years before South Dakota became a state and 7 years after it was founded.

Americana preserved: South Dakota’s famous Wall Drug

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Wall Drug is located in Wall, South Dakota. The name refers to the pharmacy store that has been there since the early 20th century. Wall Drug attracts thousands of people every year with its preserved history of the plains, including Native American history.  

Wall Drug began as a family owned drug story in the small town town of Wall South Daota, located on I-90 on just at the edge of the badlands. Failing, and desperate for customers, the family began offering free ice water to vacationers crossing the hot and dusty prairie, and business started to take off. They hired more workers and added a gift shop and sideshow attractions started to spring up on their own. Today Wall Drug is an enormous mall complex, with a huge gift shop, homemade donuts, homemade ice cream, an old fashioned soda fountain, a twenty foot high jackalope statue, and an authentic restaurant that offers buffalo burgers. Wall Drug can see up to ten thousand people come and go on a good summer day. Most of the attractions are summer-based though, and the winter season is very slow.  

Wall is an hour east of Rapid and the trip there goes right past the Badlands. Tourists could make a day trip by touring the badlands before or after visiting Wall Drug.  

South Dakota attractions: Black Elk Peak touches the sky

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Formerly known as Harney Peak, Black Elk Peak is located in Custer State park and is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Lying at 7,242 feet above sea level, Black Elk Peak is a great hiking destination, at which great views of the Black Hills can be seen when the peak is reached.  

Not only is Black Elk Peak a great place to visit and experience today, there is rich history behind the discovery and how it came to be what it is today. It is rich in history of the first pioneers upon the land and the Lakota that have occupied the area for generations. Starting at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, there are many hiking trails that can be taken to reach the summit and experience the beautiful Black Hills along the way.  

The First Discovery

In 1874 General George Armstrong Custer had reported finding gold in the Black Hills area, which lead to him and his men climbing near Harney Peak, but never climbing to the peak. The first recorded visit to the top of the peak occurred a year later in 1875 by Valentine McGillycuddy, who was a surveyor tor the scientific expedition of the Newton-Jenny Party.

The First Name

At the time, the peak was known as Hinhan Kaga, which means the “Making of Owls” because of the surrounding rock formations that resembled owls, and also the Lakota Sioux associated owls with impending death (as many of their people had died in various battles in the area).  

The Lakota History

The Lakota Sioux had occupied this area before the pioneers came and the considered it a very sacred site.  The peak was given a new name in 1855, it was named after General William S. Harney by Lieutenant Governor K. Warren, who had fought for Harney in many battles. Harney won many battles fought in the area, so the highest peak in the area was consequently named after him.

Changing the Name

But the Lakota people never agreed with this naming, and waited almost 50 years for this name change, as Harney had massacred their people. On August 11, 2016 the U.S Board on Geographic names changed the name to Black Elk Peak from Harney Peak to honor Nicholas Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian who is said to have survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Lakota waited almost 50 years for this name change, as Harney had massacred their people.  


Formerly known as Harney Peak, Black Elk Peak is located 3.7 miles southwest of the Mount Rushmore National Monument. It is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, and lies at 7,242 feet.


It lies near Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, and has various trails to reach its summit. The most popular is Trail No. 9, and is three miles to the top, which makes for a 6 mile round trip taking approximately five hours to complete. It is of moderate difficulty, but anybody is good physical condition can make the journey.

Spanning South Dakota: The Mickelson Trail

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Explore the beautiful nature of the Black Hills and visit the old American Wild West along the Mickelson Trail. This path nearly spans across the state from the North to the South, providing plenty of ground for exploring South Dakota.

The Mickelson Trail is a path that travels across South Dakota from Edgemont to Deadwood. This path spans 109 miles of packed gravel and currently has 15 different trailheads that branch off the path. Mickelson Trail spans the route where the former Burlington Northern Line once laid. The first segment of the trail was dedicated in 1991 and the project was finished in 1998. The trail is not steep, so Bicyclists, hikers, and all horseback riders may leisurely explore and enjoy the scenic trail of South Dakota at the speed and comfort of their choice.

Recreation on the Trail

Bicyclists, hikers, runners, and horseback riders all enjoy the trail. Some bicyclists are even known to complete the path both ways in a single day for a 218-mile trip through South Dakota. This trail carves through the heart of the Black Hills. A variety of sights can be seen along the length of trail, ranging from distant views of jagged mountains, high plains, dense forests of abundant wildlife and the nature of South Dakota. The grade of the trail rarely exceeds 4%, but the trail is essentially one long uphill path from Edgemont to Deadwood that gains roughly 1,150 feet in overall elevation along that direction.


Today’s path of the Mickelson Trail is the former route of the Burlington Northern Railroad Black Hills line. The original track was built in a span of 9 months and 22 days and was abandoned in 1983. Local enthusiasts and residents recognized the abandoned railway as potential. With the support of  Governor Mickelson, the abandoned railway would become the states’ first rails to trails project. In 1991, the first 6 miles of the trail were dedicated. The US Forest Service, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, the National Guard, the South Dakota Department of transportation, the South Dakota Department of Corrections, and the local Friends of the Mickelson Trail worked for many years to complete the trail in 1998.

South Dakota superlatives: The world’s largest reptile collection

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Just a few miles outside of Rapid City, the world’s largest collection of reptiles can be found at Reptile Gardens. Founded by Earl Brockelsby, over 200 reptile species and a wide variety of exotic plant life can be found by all who enter this iconic South Dakota attraction.

Reptile Gardens is one of the most iconic attractions of the Black Hills and South Dakota. It has gathered the largest collection of reptiles and exotic plant life for people to explore. In doing so, they educate visitors about the wildlife of our world. Their hard work has been recognized and validated through the many awards they have received. This zoo is one of the greatest attractions of South Dakota, it is certainly something you do not want to miss.


This South Dakota attraction is an animal park, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, that houses the largest collection of reptiles in the world. Their mission is to provide guests with an incredible experience of exotic plant and wildlife and to positively contribute to the future of their animal residents by educating visitors of environmental issues and supporting conservation programs. The history and achievements of this zoo make Reptile Gardens one of the greatest stops of South Dakota.


Due to the park’s many exhibits Reptile Gardens holds the world record for the largest collection of reptiles in the Guinness Book of World Records with over 200 species housed at the park. The zoo has also been recognized and awarded with the South Dakota Great Service Star Business for 2016. Reptile Gardens has also received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence every year since 2012, along with many more awards for being one of the top attractions in South Dakota.


The animal park originally opened in 1937, a few miles south of Rapid City, founded by reptile enthusiast Earl Brockelsby.  Earl would often end his tours by taking off his hat to reveal a live rattlesnake coiled on top of his head. With construction of a new highway, the park was relocated, in 1965, to its current location in Spring Creek valley. Along with the new location, the Sky dome was constructed to contain a Safari Room. The Safari Room is a large enclosed room that allows visitors to walk amongst and observe free roaming animals.

Giving Back

Being such a successful attraction of South Dakota, Reptile Gardens donates continued support to various organizations in support of animal and wildlife conservation. Organizations such as the Charles Darwin Foundation, which focuses on protecting exotic plan and animal wildlife and habitats in the Galapagos islands. They also support captive breeding programs designed to increase wild populations and protect endangered species.

Did you know there are dinosaurs in Rapid City?

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Overlooking Rapid City, five dinosaur sculptures have been watching over Rapid city for more than 90 years. Dinosaur Park is one of the original tourist attractions in the Black Hills area, standing along the very ridge where remains of dinosaurs had been found many years ago.

While Dinosaur Park is an old and simple attraction in Rapid City, it is certainly one of the most iconic tourism pieces the Black Hills of South Dakota has to offer. The classic design of the dinosaurs is symbolic of the early age of paleontology beliefs and ideas. Forged from the Depression-era, the statues were born in some of the hardest times in this nation’s history. These dinosaurs provide tourists a fun location to relax and play with an incredible view of Rapid City in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Meet the Dinosaurs

Towering over Rapid City, the statues depict an Apatosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a Brontosaurus. Created in 1936, these creatures were sculpted to appear as it was believed dinosaurs looked like as they lived. While modern images differ, the cartoonish, green-painted statues are still a satisfying sight for tourists. This park has a unique trait to it; this it is one of few dino-displays that encourages kids to touch and climb on all the dinosaurs.

A Hill with a View

As one stands in Dinosaur Park, an incredible view can be found beyond the statues. Upon the ridge, one has a 100-mile view. The busy city life of Rapid City can be seen below, the beautiful Black Hills can be seen to the west and north, and the South Dakota Badlands can be seen in the far east. Tourists that continue down Skyline Drive will find themselves surrounded by remarkable sights upon the ridge.

Construction of the Park

Dinosaur Park was established by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce as a Depression-era project to produce jobs and profit from the growing number of tourists to the nearby Mount Rushmore. Emmit A. Sullivan is the credited sculpture. Sullivan is also known for creating the Christ of the Ozarks and the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Arkansas. The dinos are fashioned of a concrete surface over a framework of iron pipes. They are painted a bright green with white bellies. The largest beast at Dinosaur Park is the Brontosaurs, which is 80 feet long and 28 feet high.

Story courtesy of SDSM&T Students

A South Dakota distinctive: The Badlands

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Visiting Badlands National Park

The Badlands are a unique geological formation found East of Rapid City, South Dakota. At Badlands National Park, you can expect to find canyons, buttes, and spires that showcase the geology of the area over the last 75 million years.

Badlands National Park, located an hour east of Rapid City, features a scenic drive and several short hiking trails. Visitors may also see bighorn sheep or whitetail deer in addition to several prairie dog towns and numerous species of birds. Park rangers also give presentations on the geology and the history of the Badlands throughout the day.

Geology of the Badlands

The rock layers of the Badlands reveal millions of years of a changing landscape. 75 million years ago the area was an inland sea, home of the gigantic mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. As this shallow sea retreated to their current form, a tropical jungle took over the landscape. Here, giant rhino-like mammals known as titanotheres dominated the landscape; later they would be replaced with sheep-like oreodonts on a savanna, similar to Africa’s Serengeti. Around 30 million years ago the area received lots of volcanic deposits, which today form the rugged peaks of the Badlands.

Badlands Hiking

There are several trails located in Badlands National Park. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a short, handicap-accessible trail the showcases various fossils of the fauna that once inhabited the Badlands. The Notch trail climbs up a ladder and along a ledge to “the Notch” in between the spires to reveal a dramatic landscape of the White River Valley. The Castle Trail, at 10 miles round trip, is the longest trail in the Badlands. Along the trail you can find dramatic geological spires, resembling a castle.

Badlands Visitor Guide. National Park Service. 2016.

Story Courtesy of SDSM&T Students

South Dakota culture and history: The Pine Ridge Reservation

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation, located on the edge of the Badlands in South Dakota, United States. According to the Tribal Government records, there are 38,000 people living on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The reservation is 2.7 million acres.  


The reservation is historically known for being the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. In the 1800’s, the US government was in an active war against most, if not all, known Native American tribes in the United States. This sparked a religious response from the Lakota tribes known as the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance spiritual movement believed that natives were being punished by the gods for giving up their traditional ways and customs, which is why they were forced onto reservations and defeated. Practitioners believed that if they practiced the Ghost Dance and gave up the ways of the white man, that their gods would create the world anew, and would destroy all non-believers, and all non-natives.  

In the 1890’s, the US government became more and more concerned with this concept. There was an attempt to arrest Sitting Bull, as he was suspected of being a Ghost Dancer. His arrest raised tensions on the reservation, and on December 29, 1890, the US Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a group of Dancers at Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they give up their weapons. As that demand was made, a fight broke out between a native and a US soldier. A shot was fired, and it is unclear from which side, but a brutal massacre followed, killing an estimated 150 Natives, almost half of them women and children. The US lost 25 Calvary men.  

Legal Battles  

The Oglala Lakota are also known for their active fight against the United States government in reclaiming the Black Hills. In 1980 the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to pay the Lakota tribes millions of dollars in compensation for illegally confiscating the Black Hills, which are a holy place for the tribes. The Oglala wish to have the Black Hills returned to them and refuse to accept settlement money, which as of 2011, was 1.3 billion dollars. Other notable legal actions include the suit against major beer brewery­ companies and stores.  

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation’s county is ranked among the poorest in the country, and one in four children born on the reservation suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In attempts to make things better, the tribe has banned liquor. The Oglala argued that the sale of beer in the town of White Clay, Nebraska on the Nebraska border was being sold by merchants who were fully aware the beer would be smuggled onto the reservation. Unfortunately, the suit was dismissed in 2012.

Story courtesy of SDSM&T Students

South Dakota Landmarks: Mt. Rushmore

ICPCNews thanks the class taught by M. King Adkins at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for highlighting some of the local attractions near this year’s contest

Arguably the most well-known sculpture in America, Mount Rushmore features sixty-foot high sculptures of four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, from left to right.  

History and Geography

The memorial park around the sculpture is roughly 2 square miles, or ~5.2 square kilometers. Work began on Mount Rushmore in October 1927, headed by Gutzon Borglum until his untimely death in March 1941. Construction was then taken over by Borglum’s son, Lincoln, and finished in October 1941. The project was finished due to lack of funding, and remains technically unfinished even to this day. Drawing in over two million visitors yearly, Mount Rushmore is a highly recommended destination for tourists and locals alike, rich with history and American culture.

Modern Day

Since 1998, a Visitor’s Center has existed around the monument, and to this day, there exists a large museum detailing several of the processes used to carve and blast the rock. Despite using dynamite, and the time period in which this extensive, dangerous work was undertaken, no fatalities occurred during the entire process among any of the 400 workers. Interestingly, the figure of Thomas Jefferson was originally intended to be featured to Washington’s right, but after work was undertaken, the rock to Washington’s right was found to be bad quality, so the existing work was removed, and Jefferson now sits on Washington’s left.


The project, at the time, drew a lot of national attention. The National Park Service, for example, expanded its jurisdiction to include the new monument in 1933 and continues this position to this day. Overall, the project cost $989,992 from beginning to end.


With all these aspects to consider, Mount Rushmore is an incredibly easy suggestion for any interested tourists attending the ICPC to visit. With an expansive museum and a rich and fascinating history, Mount Rushmore is a tourist destination that any possible tourist would come away from pleased.


“Park Statistics.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 14 Mar.  


“Frequently Asked Questions.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d.  

Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Story thanks to SDSM&T Students

History lives in Rapid City

King  Adkins and his wonderful students at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology have been working hard all spring to highlight wonderful Rapid City, South Dakota, host city for this year’s ACM-ICPC World Finals. Today they tell us about some historical attractions. 

Minutemen Missile Silo:

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site was established in 1999 to illustrate the history and significance of the Cold War, the arms race, and intercontinental ballistic missile development. This National Historic Site preserves the last remaining Minuteman II ICBM system in the United States.

Dinosaur 13:

In 1990, a massive fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex was discovered in the Badlands of South Dakota. This fossil was discovered by a man named Peter Larson, a paleontologist who studied at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The fossil was later the center of much controversy involving who the fossil belonged to.  

Hotel Alex Johnson:

The Alex Johnson Hotel is a historic hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota. The hotel began construction in 1927, and opened its doors for the first time nine months later in 1928. Johnson meant for the hotel to be a “showplace of the west,” to show and share his love for the Black Hills, and to be a tribute to the Native Americans of the area. It combined the beauty of the Black Hills, Lakota people and Germanic heritage, of the immigrants who made South Dakota their home, noticeable in the structure itself within the tutor design and interior decor.

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Host city sending 7th team to World Finals

The ICPC World Finals are coming to Rapid City May 20-25, and excitement is building in advance of the actual event.

The top competitors at the ICPC World Finals represent the best collegiate programmers on the planet. Each fall, about 300,000 students across six continents compete for spots on local university teams. The winning university teams progress through multi-level regional competitions with 133 teams of three advancing to the World Finals. SD Mines will have a team at the World Finals for the 7th time since 1998 – an accomplishment few schools, and no other school of comparable size, can claim. Kyle Riley, Ph.D., and chair of Mines’ math and computer science department says, “There are no ‘free’ spots at the world finals. The SD Mines team had to earn a spot just like everyone else. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”