Seniors organize coding event

Honorable Mention, Feature Writing

Hackers, please start your computers.

Seniors Andrew Moshkovich and Chris Liu are co-running the second SRC Hacks contest later this month. Unlike most coding events, SRC Hacks (pronounced “source hacks” and formerly known as SRC Code) focuses on introducing beginners to the field. Liu compared the event to a science fair, but for coding.

SRC Hacks features multiple workshops that focus on various coding topics. The event will take place on Feb. 22-23 at Make School SF on 555 Post Street in San

Francisco. The SRC Hacks opening ceremony begins at 9 a.m., and the event ends at 12:30 p.m. the next day.

“Coding is teaching a computer how to do what you would like it to do,” said Moshkovich, who is vice president of Cal High’s Coding Club. “The best part [of programming] is that there’s no limit to what you can do.”

Participants in the contest will be able to harness their creativity to create their own coding projects over a 24-hour period. The creativity that is required to code is one of Moshkovich’s favorite parts of being a coder.

Liu said he was influenced to start SRC Hacks after he attended Firebird Hacks, another coding contest hosted in Fremont in November 2017. “[Firebird Hacks] was really cool,” Liu, president of Cal’s Coding Club, said. “I saw a lot of ways I could improve it, and I got with a few friends and started planning [SRC Hacks].”

The competition moved to San Francisco from 42 Silicon Valley, a computer programming school in Fremont. Liu said 42 Silicon Valley placed too many restrictions on the event and charged too much to use the facility again this year. Admission at this year’s event is free, and complimentary food and shirts will be provided. A variety of tech sponsors, including Pixar and Desmos, are helping contribute to $20,000 in prize money that will be awarded to participants.

In addition to hosting coding events, Moshkovich and Liu also compete in programming competitions.

The duo joined two other Cal High students and placed 10th nationally in the CyberPatriot cybersecurity contest during the second semester of the 2018-2019 school year.  Over the course of the competition, the team, which included Moshkovich, Liu, and seniors Jerry Gao, and Vihan Bhargava, went through five rounds of fixing virtual machines’ cybersecurity vulnerabilities, with each round becoming progressively harder.

The first four rounds took place at Diablo Valley College, while the final round was completed online.

Although coding knowledge was necessary to do well in the contest, cybersecurity was the main focus of the compeition. Cybersecurity is taking measures to protect computers and other devices from digital attacks.

Moshkovich also emphasizes the importance of teamwork. “You have to divide and conquer,” Moshkovich said. “You have to work as a unit.”

After the first three rounds, every team was sorted into brackets, and the team of Cal students was placed in the gold bracket, which was the second of three brackets. The fourth round was the state competition, and afterwards, the top 25 percent of each bracket in each state went to the final, national round, where the Cal students took 10th in the gold bracket.

As the leaders of Cal’s Coding Club, Liu and Moshkovich organize practices for coding competitions, including CyberPatriot and the Lockheed Martin Code Quest, which is a contest where participants have to use coding to solve logic problems.

“[Liu] has been president for the past four years,” teacher Anh Nguyen, the Coding Club adviser, said. “He has a lot of enthusiasm [about running the club].” Liu thinks that the club is a lot like a close group of friends.

“We don’t think we’re competing on behalf of the club,” Liu said. “We’re really competing as a team. The club is just a namesake thing.”

In addition to competing, Moshkovich teaches coding classes at The Coder School in the San Ramon Marketplace. He also took programming classes at Cal.

“He was an all-around good student,” Sean Raser, who taught Moshkovich in AP Computer Science Principles, said. “He was bright, knowledgeable, and a hard worker.”

Moshkovich began to code eight years ago, and started competing in contests when he arrived at Cal. In the future, he plans on pursuing a major in computer science and wants to enter the private cybersecurity profession.

Liu took computer science classes at Cal taught by Raser and Nguyen, although he says he is mostly self-taught. He doesn’t know if he wants to pursue computer science as a degree or a job.

More information about the SRC Hacks contest can be found at .

This story was an honoree in the 2020 Lesher Awards competition.