Last week, we hosted the the final round of Google Code Jam 2009, the sixth iteration of our annual global programming competition. From almost 23,000 registrants in the beginning, we winnowed down the contestants to the fastest and most fervent coders. On Friday, we brought the top 23 competitors to our Mountain View headquarters for four concentrated hours of thinking, testing and trouble-shooting. The competition platform, built as a 20% project by a group of Google engineers, was powered by Google App Engine and allowed the contestants to use the programming language of their choice. These diverse finalists represented 15 different countries across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The contestants were confronted by six puzzles. In one, they had to take on the role of a telecommunications company upgrading some of its equipment. The company wants to upgrade its most profitable cell towers; however, doing so might force them to upgrade less profitable towers as well — at a high cost. The contestants were charged with figuring out which towers to upgrade, to maximize gains and minimize costs. The competitors used their coding skills to figure out the most efficient solution as quickly as possible.

Last year's champion, Lou Tiancheng of China, code-named ACRush, once again took top honors and the $5,000 grand prize. Qi Zichao of China won second place, and Iwata Yoichi of Japan came in third.

For a glimpse into this year's Code Jam take look at the video below, courtesy of NBC. And to all the coders out there, we hope to see you next year — start practicing now!