Students Hack to Win Cyber Defense Competition

Published: March 04, 2015 | Author: Jessica Young | Read Time: 2 minutes

SUU's winning Cyber Defense ClubStudents within the Southern Utah University Department of Computer Science & Information Systems are securing their future after bringing home a first-place finish at the western regional 2015 Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in Denver, Colo. February 27-28.

Eight T-Birds worked as a group to protect their computer network against real-world cyber threats that were infiltrating their self-created health system along with students from eight other western U.S. higher-education institutions. This first-time win for the SUU team will send the students to the 2015 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) in San Antonio, Texas this April.

Alex Rodriguez-Vargas, junior studying computer science from Bavaria, Germany, explained that this well-earned win came for each student after dedicating a year of personal research, outside of class, to prepare for their first appearance in the cyber competition.

“Some of us started with a passion for cyber security and a desire to compete, yet our thirst for knowledge and drive for success we made the best of our circumstances and came out on top,” said Rodriquez-Vargas. “Although my team showed off our master of the technical skills, it is my belief that our friendship and respect for one another allowed us to succeed.”

This outside prep came through the SUU Cyber Defense Club, where each student has been training through interim competitions to train for the regional and now national events. All training completed outside of classroom, their faculty advisor Rob Robertson, associate professor of computer science, stated that this competition gave students a medal but it will also lead to internships, graduate school and careers.

“With national companies sponsoring these events our students are getting a spotlight thrown at them,” Robertson said. “Already this competition has led one student to an acceptance at Carnegie Mellon University and more will filter through while at the national competition.”

But it’s not just the acceptance letters that pushes these students to compete, Rodriquez-Vargas pronounced it’s proving that SUU is a superior institution for science minded students.

“My team's dedication to their area of study and recent success proves that our T-Birds are just as smart and technically savvy as any competing student team in the Rocky Mountain region,” he remarked. “It is my dream to prove that our school can produce CS/IS students that are just as deserving of special job opportunities as any other CS/IS graduate in the nation, this competition will do just that.”

NCDCC is sponsored by Raytheon, a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense and security markets, and provides technical resources and employee volunteers to help promote the next generation of cyber defenders.

Southern Utah University’s Department of Computer Science & Information Systems provides programs in computer science and information systems with courses that bring students first hand experience with their degree, such as the Cyber Defense Club. SUU will be hosting the Western Regional U.S. Cyber Challenge Competition summer camp July 2015.

Photo credit: SUU students part of the winning cyber defense competition, Alexander Rodriguez, Josh Maxwell, Landon Beach, Jared Ross, Damien Anderson, Brance Boren, Shea Esplin, and Shaun Stapley.

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