The goal of PCDC is to energize South Carolina high school and collegiate students to focus on the development of networking and cybersecurity skills through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). During the competitions, students from each school formed “blue teams” that operated and secured the network of a small shipping company. The teams were challenged to properly configure/reconfigure an IT network, add new services, and respond to additional requirements — all while defending against “red team” hackers attempting to disrupt their network.
“This is a unique environment for students to be able to test their knowledge in networking and cybersecurity. They are participating in real-life scenarios to keep a business’s infrastructure secure,” said Jeff Sweeney, SSC Atlantic information systems security operations supervisor.
Over 300 dedicated high school and collegiate students gave up their weekend and 100 plus volunteers from SSC Atlantic, AFCEA, corporate partners and Navy Reserve participated in the weekend competition.
High school students from around South Carolina competed Saturday. First place winners were from Palmetto Scholars Academy. Porter Gaud High School earned second, and third was taken by The Home School Network. The high school competition is open to all schools in South Carolina but only eight teams can compete. The top three teams from the previous year are invited back, while the remaining five positions qualify through the state round of the CyberPatriot Competition. The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, Stratford, Wando, South Aiken and Ashley Ridge also competed.
The collegiate competition held Sunday was open to colleges and universities in South Carolina. Three of the eight slots are designated for the top three teams of the previous year. The remaining five teams must qualify through the Southeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
Clemson University took first place, College of Charleston second and University of South Carolina third. ECPI University, The Citadel, Trident Technical College, South Carolina State and Charleston Southern University also competed in the event.
Also included on Saturday was the Palmetto Digital Forensics Competition which included over 60 students in both high school and collegiate divisions. Teams of three students each were challenged to solve as forensics scenarios as possible to collect points.
An initiative called Cyber-In-The Middle provided a window into the PCDC competition for middle school students. About 90 local middle school students were assigned to either gold, blue or red teams. Curriculum also included mini-expos, computer deconstruction and reconstruction, and a cyber introduction.
“The big picture is that we’re trying to develop our future cybersecurity workforce,” said Sweeney, the competition director. “There’s a great need for people in this field and it’s important to get more of our young people involved.”
The cyber defense competition is part of a growing movement to develop technical skills and interest in the area of networking and cybersecurity in preparation for exciting careers in STEM.
“This is the sixth year of PCDC and it has been neat to see the pipeline of students who have participated in the competition who are then hired by either us at SPAWAR or one of our local business partners,” said Sweeney.
SSC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C4ISR), cyber and information technology (IT) capabilities.