ASD students compete at Dyn’s Hack-a-Palooza

For the third year in a row, Dyn Inc., an Internet performance management company based in Manchester, hosted a programming competition for high school students.

This year’s contest, termed the Dyn Hack-a-Palooza, took place on Friday, Nov. 4. Sixteen teams of three students each, hailing from a wide array of New Hampshire schools, attended the event.

The Academy for Science and Design, a charter school in Nashua, sent three teams: Michael Lai, Benjamin Super and Louis Vinton (Team 1); Brin Harper, Stephan Lensky and Nathaniel Yaakov (Team 2); and Benjamin Nichols-Farquhar, Akash Shaji and Connor Tess (Team 3).

Madge Smith, a computer science teacher at ASD, encouraged students to participate in the Hack-a-Palooza. All of the ASD participants have taken Smith’s computer science classes at school, and many of them program in other venues, such as robotics and independent projects.

Upon their arrival at Dyn, participants had the opportunity to tour the Manchester facility.

Notable sights included movie- and video game-themed conference rooms, a game room and a slide. Once the tours were complete, students listened to presentations about topics in computing, such as DDoS attacks and game design. Then, teams configured their coding environments and played arcade games as they waited for the competition to begin.

During the competition, teams had 31/2 hours to solve 12 problems. As each group was allowed only one computer, time management and task division were essential. Within most successful teams, some members wrote pseudocode on paper while their teammates typed code for other problems. Teams could choose from a variety of programming languages; Java and Python were among the most popular.

The problems covered various computing topics, ranging from text processing to optimization.

"I liked how a lot of the problems had real-world applications," said ASD senior Shaji. "Our team got the Roman numeral calculator working on the second try, and we were really proud our algorithm."

Shaji’s teammate, Nichols-Farquhar, remarked that the Hack-a-Palooza taught his team how to "assess skill sets and manage time wisely, particularly when considering which problems to pursue and which ones to skip."

Yaakov, another ASD senior and Hack-a-Palooza attendee, said the most valuable part of his experience was "learning how to program with other people, and gaining teamwork skills in the process."

Milford took first place in the competition, with a total of 10 problems solved. Following closely was ASD Team 2 (Harper, Lensky and Yaakov), with nine problems solved. The team was granted a trophy, and each member received an Amazon Dot. In third place was Bishop Guertin, also with nine problems solved; ties were broken based on time.

Brin Harper is a senior at the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua.