Shaler Area team makes impression at “Hack the Ram” competition


Jordan Geidel, Alice Yang, Danielle Berdik, and Tyler Lienemann with their Best Beginner award at Pine Richland coding competition.

Lainey Shipman

On January 28, 2023, a student-run coding competition, “Hack the Ram” took place at Pine Richland High School. While the competition was sponsored by some organizations including PNC, RMU, and Aspirational Health, the entire event was student-run and organized.

Middle and high schools from all over the Pittsburgh region attended the free event.

Shaler Area entered with a team comprised of junior Danielle Berdik, junior Alice Yang, junior Tyler Lienemann, and senior Jordan Geidel. Using different code languages, the team had to create something regarding the theme of change. Specifically, this group decided to focus on mental health.

Most groups at the event were experienced in coding, but Shaler Area’s team was not. Yang and Berdik went to an intro to HTML seminar, a coding language that allows you to create a website while Lienemann and Geidel attended an intro to Python seminar.

“We felt like we were all at a disadvantage and were under qualified. There were people who were sectioning off their times and were even coding in the lunch line when we were still picking a project,” Yang said.

We could tell the judges liked our project while we were presenting it to them, but after seeing how advanced other groups’ projects were, we truly did not think we would win anything.

— Danielle Berdik

After much consideration, the group decided on creating a website that allowed users to rate their mood based on a scale of 1-10. Then, it would send the user to a different website to help the user depending on which rating they selected. The group had two members working on the website that the user would see, using HTML, while the other members worked on the code for the interface, using python.

However, they experienced issues with their code running smoothly together. To get a running code, the group had to convert their code that had been in python into JavaScript. With time starting to run out, coupled with their lack of experience, the group was forced to downsize their rating scale in order to have something to show the judges.

In the end, the team was able to finish their website which was titled, “Health 4 You.” On the website, the user selects how they are feeling on a scale of 1-5, and then are redirected to another website where they are presented with advice on what to do next to improve their mood.

The team used what they had learned in the various seminars to put their website together, which they made clear to the judges when it was their time to present their project. Even though the group did not use the most advanced code known, they took advantage of what was being offered to them and ended up learning a lot, which was the entire point of the competition.

There was a first-place prize of a 3D printer that was awarded to the top team, and then two teams, one high school team and one middle school team, would be rewarded the second-place prizes of a Logitech Pro keyboard.

After seeing all the projects, the judges decided to create a “Best Beginner” Category to replace one of the second place awards which they awarded to the Shaler Area team because the judges were so impressed with what the group was able to create, given their starting circumstances. They also admired the dedication of the team and how they used their resources around them when facing many struggles throughout the day.

“We could tell the judges liked our project while we were presenting it to them, but after seeing how advanced other groups’ projects were, we truly did not think we would win anything,” Berdik said.