Penn Hills High School students place in Carnegie Mellon University coding competition

Three students from Penn Hills High School recently earned a major honor competing against other students from around the globe. Seniors Eric Cronin and Matthew Kirby and junior Caleb Lohr recently all placed in the top three in their respective divisions at the bi-annual fall 20222 Carnegie Mellon University Creative Task Competition.

The event has been running since 2018 and is a coding competition dealing with software engineering. All three students are members of the esports team at Penn Hills, which is sponsored by computer science teacher Teddy Gabrielson.

Lohr took first in his division, Kirby took second in his division and Cronin took third in his division. The divisions were separated by skill level and coding experience, with the guidelines set by Carnegie Mellon’s curriculum outline for high schools.

For Lohr’s first place entry, he recreated the classic arcade video game PAC-MAN; while Kirby recreated a game that was inspired by the “Top Gun” film series called Danger Zone. Cronin also created a game, which was a recreation of the popular game from Nintendo called “Bomberman.”

Despite the fun nature of their output, creating these games was far from easy.

“Each student faced a variety of challenges along the way,” Gabrielson said. “They had to solve a variety of complex software engineering problems unique to each one of them.”

Gabrielson commended the competition for helping the students prepare for life after high school.

“Being recognized by CMU, which is one of the top computer science schools in the country, has really excited these kids,” he said. “They all have big plans to continue studying (computer science) beyond high school and results like this really build their confidence.”

This is the first year of the esports club at Penn Hills, and the high school also has implemented a coding class to complement the club. The class currently has 30 juniors and seniors enrolled. Moving forward, the esports club will field two competitive teams that will be matching up against students from other school across the state beginning in the spring of 2023. Tryouts will be held early in 2023 and Gabrielson expects around 12 students to qualify for the teams.

Darren Yuvan is a Trib Total Media contributing writer.

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