Programming club ranks high at end of national hackathon


Courtesy Daniel Forhan

The Programming club recently placed 64th out of 5000 teams in the annual PicoCTF hackathon.

Brianna Tang, Assistant A&E Editor

The programming club competed in a two week national hackathon called PicoCTF from Sep. 27 to Oct. 11 where they placed 19th in the nation out of over 5,000 high school teams.

The team consisted of sophomores Owen Hong, Andrew Lee, Patrick Li, Jakob Zhang and Alex Wang. Senior Tejas Maraliga placed 64th individually out of 5141, and a second team consisting of sophomores Henry Zhang, Divyansh Shivashok and Ryan Weiner placed 104th. 

“We did not expect to get so far, but once we realized that we were actually doing really well, we decided to spend a lot of time on it,” Li said. “A lot of collaboration is involved especially because different people on the team know different stuff [about programming].”

The competitors are given a set of challenging problems that require skills with web applications, manipulating files, cracking passwords and knowledge of C and Python languages. 

“It is designated to give kids skills that can be applied in the real world, especially because computer security is a huge field right now,” computer science teacher and club adviser Daniel Forhan said. 

The competition was a learning experience for everyone on the team and involved a lot of cooperation amongst teammates. 

“I went into the competition with little programming knowledge and I just learned as it went on,” Lee said. “I didn’t even know what a command prompt was, but by the end I had earned half the team’s points. I spent at least 30 hours [working on the problems] outside of school, and one day I spent 10 [consecutive] hours [working on them].” 

As a senior, this was Maraliga’s third year competing in the PicoCTF hackathon. 

Individual competitors are given the exact same problems as the teams, however it is more challenging since they do not have the opportunity to collaborate with others. 

“The past two years I’ve been pretty new to [the competition] and I was just trying to develop skills, but this year I really wanted to do as well as I could,” Maraliga said. “The college that hosts this [Carnegie Mellon] is also one of my top choices, so that is another reason I dedicated a lot of time and tried to do really well on this competition.”

The sophomore team is looking forward to participating in the competition again and doing even better next year. 

“These students are very dedicated and spend countless hours working on these problems in addition to their school work,” Forhan said. “I am very proud of them and I am looking forward to what they will do in the future.”