Programming Club hosts annual Harker Programming Invitational with ‘Space & CS’ theme


Sabrina Zhu

Eighth-grader Tiffany Zhu listens to the panel event during the Harker Programming Invitational (HPI) on Mar. 13. Middle and high school students participated in HPI virtually.

by Sabrina Zhu, STEM Editor

The Harker Programming Club hosted the annual Harker Programming Invitational (HPI) on March 13.

The event consisted of a two-hour-long algorithmic coding contest followed by a presentation by Dr. John Bresina, the Senior Research Computer Scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center, and panel session. Similar to last year’s contest and this year’s  Girls Programming League Challenge, which was also organized by the Programming Club, the HPI was held virtually due to the pandemic.

Over 150 students from across the country attended HPI, which had the theme “Computer Science and Space,” and competed in either the Novice or Advanced Divisions. The competitors worked in predetermined groups of up to three people to attempt to solve a total of 10 questions written by Programming Club officers. Following the main contest portion of HPI, participants attended a keynote speaker event with Dr. Bresina, who discussed the NASA projects he had worked on. In the afternoon, a panel of three professional scientists: Dr. Jane Bae, Assistant Professor of Aerospace at the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at Caltech; Dr. Eugene Tu, Center Director at NASA’s Ames and Dr. Eric Nelson, upper school computer science and physics teacher, discussed questions regarding the fields of computer science and space.

“[The panel] hosted a very interesting discussion about the broad field of space and computer science,” Programming Club co-president Alexa Lowe (12) said. “They talked about the future of it and how computer science will help space exploration and how also space exploration will drive computer science.”

Programming Club has been organizing HPI for the past few months. The officers were divided into two teams, with one focused on the backend part of the contest, which includes problem writing and platform testing, and the other focused on the frontend, which includes inviting speakers and advertising. 

“I hope they [had] fun coding questions with their friends and that they [learned] something new,” Alexa said. “For the speaker events, I hope they [broadened] their view on what computer science does in the world, and I hope they [found] it interesting to hear about experts in different fields and to hear about their journeys.”