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Souhegan High School's team works hard on a problem with just a few minutes left during the annual High School Hack-A-Palooza, a programming contest held at Dyn in Manchester on Friday. From left: Junior Tim Johanson, senior Jeff Johanson and senior Matt Hartman. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Teens solve problems together at Dyn's second annual Hack-A-Palooza competition in Manchester

MANCHESTER — Tensions were high at Dyn’s headquarters in the Millyard, where teams of high schoolers were competing to be crowned kings of computer coding.

Dyn hosted its second annual “Hack-A-Palooza” competition Friday, where 17 teams from 13 different schools tackled a dozen problems created by Dyn staffers who served as judges.

“It was really stressful, especially in the last 30 minutes,” said Ankur Sundura, whose team from Nashua South High School took first place.

The scoreboard showed which teams were leading right up until a half an hour remained, when the standings went blank and the teen tech wizards made a final push to boost their score.
Sundura said his team was able to solve about half of the problems, which was enough to take them from standing in second place at the half-hour warning to the top. Sundura and fellow senior Aashish Welling repeated as champions along with new teammate Peter Minch, who was a first-time competitor.
“This year, the problems were a lot tougher. Last year, we solved eight out of the nine problems. This year, there were 12,” Sundura said. “They required us to think a lot more. There was no way we could have finished all of them during the time limit.”
Ali Rafieymehr, dean of the company’s Dyn University and director of instructional design, said Dyn wanted to create something competitive that would also inspire teens to pursue computer studies.

“This is what the challenges are going to be like when they go to college.”
Rafieymehr said the students taking part in competitions like Friday’s will be the kind of candidates Dyn and other area tech companies seek when these students are done with college and looking for a job.
Dyn gave the competitors a tour of the facility before getting down to business in a large conference room, where the students huddled around laptops on desks strewn with computer manuals and other resources.
Once the time was up, students from the different teams mingled and discussed the problems and various ways they arrived at a solution.

“It was definitely a challenge,” said Brin Harper, a junior on one of the two teams from the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua. “Especially with the last one that we just figured out, it’s really rewarding when you finally figure one out.”
Rafieymehr congratulated participants before the winners were announced.

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