Coding club programs competitive comeback

Ted Yarmoski, Asst. Opinion Editor

Students took on algorithms, forensics, reverse engineering and cryptography in a competition hosted by CSquared, Diamond Bar High School’s coding and computer science club.

In the event, Capture the Flag, 37 teams earned points by finding a “flag,” or solution, within challenges designed by code club officers. Challenges were placed into one of five categories: cryptography, forensics, algorithmic, reverse engineering and miscellaneous. Each challenge consisted of a description, an unknown key and a hint.

“We got a lot of positive feedback from participants saying that the challenges were very interesting and fun to solve,” CSquared president, junior Kenneth Chen, said.

In cryptography, the objective was to decode an encrypted message. Algorithmic questions required the use of an algorithm to quickly solve a problem, such as finding the sum of the squares of 500 numbers. Forensics challenges consisted of a broken image, large file or some other complex item that students had to decipher. Competitors for reverse engineering had to analyze a malfunctioning program in search of the text string needed to complete the challenge.

“For the unique challenges, you have to be very creative to think of problems that are unlike any of the others yet not so hard that nobody can solve it,” senior Justin Wu, vice president of the club, said.

As teams registered and settled in, they began solving challenges on computers in the library while officers walked around answering questions and dropping small hints. The event lasted until 4 p.m., but the competition lasted through Thanksgiving break. Teams were able to access their accounts and solve challenges during the vacation. The top three teams with the most points were awarded with Amazon gift cards.

Sophomore Ryan Zhu competed solo and achieved first place with 1700 points. Second place were juniors Chloe Huang and Frederick Yang along with sophomore Sean Chang scoring 1120 points. In third place was sophomore Keshav Sriram with 790 points.

Chen said that the club plans  to improve future events by avoiding scheduling before holidays, creating additional challenges and assigning a mentor to each team to make solving the challenges a smoother experience.

CSquared had been inactive until it was rebooted last year. Recruitment and activity efforts began this year after the club became organized and operational. The club is planning workshops, competitions and tutoring in the near future and welcomes collaboration with other STEM organizations in and outside of DBHS.