Return to the Great Road Alumni Speaker Series: PantherHack Returns to PDS with Alumni Panel

This article was contributed to by Theodor Brasoveanu, Upper School Computer Science teacher; Toni Dunlap, Middle and Upper School Computer Science teacher; Arshaan Sayed ’23 and Jai Kasera ’23.

The alumni mentioned in this article spoke to students as part of our Return to the Great Road Alumni Speaker Series.

PantherHack 2022 was the second student-led coding competition and learning event of its nature hosted by the PDS Computer Science Club, following last year’s inaugural edition. We had approximately 360 student participants from around the Tri-State area (compared to 130 last year), including several dozen PDS Upper and Middle School students currently taking computer science or other STEAM classes.

Theodor Brasoveanu, Upper School Computer Science teacher, expressed that, “PantherHack allowed our students to learn from and inspire each other, while working on projects meaningful to them. While most chose to work in teams to tackle one problem they set out to solve, several students prepared lessons or mini-workshops to teach elements of computer programming to their peers. Our Computer Club team coached them in the weeks prior to the event to carefully choose their lesson topics and successfully deliver their presentations.”

Another component were the workshops and panel that featured PDS alumni pursuing careers in technology. We were lucky to have an incredible group of alumni to coach and interact with our students. Benjamin Cohen '11 (Substack) and Aaliyah Sayed '21 (Princeton University) offered two workshops on APIs and Web Scraping and Computer Science Opportunities in College, respectively.

They were followed by an interactive Alumni Panel on Careers in Technology featuring Erik Oliver ’90 (Patent Licensing), Jeremy Kuris ‘91 (US Department of State), Jeffrey Kurtz '98 (Google), Rohit Jenveja ’03 (Google), Matt Tarduogno ’04 (Department of Energy), Erica Hyman ‘07 (Spotify), Eric Sherman ’18 (University of Pittsburgh), Helen Mehreteab ‘19 (Harvard University, Google), Aaliyah Sayed ’21 (Princeton University).

Our students were delighted to hear the alumni’s perspectives on career opportunities, advice on how to grow intellectually and enhance one’s exposure to and experience with coding and technology. Most of all, they were inspired to dream big and gain confidence in their potential, skills and ability to change the world for the better.

The students’ efforts to plan and execute this elaborate series of events took place over the course of the academic year, starting in September with drafting a proposal to the school’s administration, reaching out to sponsors and participant schools and coming up with a full schedule of activities. They developed key communication, collaboration and leadership skills that will serve them well into the future.

Arshaan Sayed ’23, a lead organizer of Pantherhack, was inspired by the turnout of the event. He said, “PantherHack2022 was an extremely successful event. We had almost 400 participants, $23,000 in prizes, 14 workshops and game tournaments, plus a PDS alumni panel. There were over 50 projects submitted, and all of them were very impressive. I’d especially like to shout out the projects that won Best Beginner Hack and Best Education Hack, which were both made by PDS students.

My favorite part of the event was the PDS Alumni panel, in which we got to ask questions to really successful and interesting alumni about their experiences with tech in their jobs and college. It’s not every day you get to talk to someone who works for the US Department of State or Google, and their stories were very insightful.”

Toni Dunlap, Computer Science teacher for the Middle and Upper School, was also an instrumental part of ensuring Pantherhack’s success. She remarked, “The student organizers are so amazing, as they put forth great effort to pull the event together. The students diligently engaged in months and months of planning under the guidance and leadership of Theo Brasoveanu, as they reached out to community partners, alumni groups and the Major League Hacking (MLH) organization. I think it's incredible that the students are gaining such practical experience with planning and organizing a multi-day event with hundreds of participants. This type of leadership experience will prepare them for the future in a number of ways.”

Jai Kasera ’23, another lead organizer of the event, shared how fulfilling the day was for himself and his fellow organizers, saying, “What was most fulfilling for me was seeing the community that we helped create through this event. Participants were able to communicate through online messaging and chatting on the PantherHack Discord server, an application similar to Slack. Although we had mentors and organizers monitoring the chats to answer any questions that participants might have had, we ended up often not having to respond because other participants would provide help to their fellow students instead. Participants were helping each other with code, sharing their own experiences and stories in computer science and stimulating conversation with people that they had never talked to before. First time coders were able to explore this immense field and learn some cool skills along the way, and I think I can say that the organizers were able to spread their passion for computer science to other students, which was the ultimate goal of planning this event.”

Congratulations to each of the participants and the organizers on such a successful event!

Here is a list of all the projects and workshops presented by PDS students:

Student Projects:

Homework Tracker (Best Education Hack) - Michael Berry ‘27

Panther Knight (Best Beginner Hack) - Rohan Madhok ‘27

Inside and Out (Mental Health Tracker) - Shivani Manikandan ’24

Student-Led Workshops:

Intro to Machine Learning in Python - Arshaan Sayed ‘23

Intro to Java - Farhan Haque ‘24, Jai Kasera ’23

Intro to NFT’s and Blockchain - Samay Nandwana ‘22

Intro to Web Development - Caden Bialow ‘23

Intro to C - Mark Yang ‘24

Artificial Intelligence vs. Machine Learning - Armaan Agrawal ‘25

Chess Tournament - Winston Ni ‘23

Guessathon - Isaac Chen ‘25

A full list of projects is posted at

A list of the student-led workshops is posted at

The PantherHack team is grateful to the following PDS students, faculty and staff for their help and support:

Lead Organizers: Jai Kasera ‘23, Samay Nandwana ’22, Arshaan Sayed ’23

Outreach Team: Mark Yang ‘24 (director), Ronin Bae ’24, Caden Bialow ‘23, Mehak Dhaliwal ‘22, Samuel Elkin ‘24, Jinu Ryu ‘23

Finance Team: Grant Wells ‘22 (director), Armaan Agrawal ’25, Farhan Haque ‘24, Sophia Zhou ‘25

Tech & Design: Shivani Manikandan ’24 (director), Winston Ni ’23


Faculty Mentors: Theodor Brasoveanu, Toni Dunlap, Priti Matta, Chandra Smith

PDS Administration: Kaylie Keesling, Christian Rhodes, Renee Price, Elizabeth Monroe

Communications Team: Ashley Stenger, Eunice Kim

Parent Chaperones: Ms. Ritu Jajodia, Ms. Ling Gao, Ms. Zhen Chen


Judges: Jeffrey Kurtz '98 (Google), Rohit Jenveja '03 (Google), Aaliyah Sayed ’21 (Princeton University), Jon Ostendorf (PDS Head of IT), Theodor Brasoveanu (PDS CS Teacher), Priti Matta (PDS CS Teacher), Jeff Beck (Retired PDS CS Teacher), Roshell H. Gordon (Mathematics & CS Teacher - Franklin High School) and Princeton Day School Parents Mr. Manikandan Padmanabhan (Senior Sales Manager at FIS) and Ms. Farhat Siddiqui (Senior Architect, Product & Platform Innovation at ETS)

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