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The YETI Returns

February 14, 2023

You could be forgiven if you didn't think a data-based challenge would involve regional cow mooing accents and 48 pints of ice cream. But the unexpected is part of the fun with the physics department's now-annual YETI (Year End Tournament of Imagination) event. Players analyze data to solve puzzles, unlocking more clues to reveal fun facts. This year 19 intrepid physics students competed, with nine (a new record!) making it across the metaphorical finish line.

UT Physics YETI challenge YETI figurines

The much-coveted signature YETI figurine, shown here in last year's (white) and this year's (orange) hues.

As with the inaugural event, YETI 2 was organized by Assistant Professors Tova Holmes and Larry Lee. Launched in mid-January, the tournament began with each participant receiving a personalized dataset. They plotted the data to reveal a bar code. That code allowed them to encode and upload a fun fact on a GitHub site. The next step was deciphering as many of the other submissions as possible. The rules allowed challenges to be completed with any language, any tools, and by any (legal) means. That included simply asking other participants for answers, but as Lee pointed out those who tried social engineering failed to convince their fellow students to divulge any hints.

UT Physics YETI2 Participants

YETI 2 Competitors Tanner Mengel, Johnny Lawless, Sanket Sharma, and Nimmitha Karunarathna.

While all finishers took home the signature and much-coveted YETI figurine (this year in orange), the winners are listed below. (Thanks to Associate Professor Nadia Fomin for funding the prizes.)

Most Fun Fact—General Category
Winner: Harini Radhakrishnan
Fun Fact: The average U.S. resident consumes 48 pints of ice cream a year.
Prize: $40

Most Fun Fact—Nerdy Edition
Winner: Johnny Lawless
Fun Fact: RollerCoaster Tycoon code was almost entirely written in Assembly.
Prize: $40

First Runner-Up
Tanner Mengel
Fun Fact: Cows from different regions of the world develop unique moo accents.
Decoding Score: Decoded six other messages.
Prize: $60

Sanket Sharma

Overall Winner & YETI2 Champion
Sanket Sharma
Fun Fact: AMD's Navi 31 RDNA3 processers have 58 billion transistors.
Decoding Score: Decoded five other messages, starting on Day 1.
Prize: $100, bragging rights for a year, and his name on the YETI plaque

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