This article is supplied by Raytheon
When a team of students from the University of Central Florida won the Raytheon-sponsored National Cyber Collegiate Defense Competition earlier this year, they might have thought part of their reward – a trip to Washington, D.C. – would be the usual garden-variety sightseeing tour.
But before their Aug. 19-21 visit was complete, the team members would shake hands with Vice President Joe Biden, meet some of the nation's top cyber defenders, tour the White House, see the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Hub and play "agent for a day" at a Secret Service training center. All while collecting congratulations at every stop.
When the team, known as the "Knights in Cyber Armor" after the university's Knights mascot, arrived in Washington, even the steeliest-eyed competitors among them couldn't hide their excitement.
"I'm really looking forward to meeting all of the important people," student Jason Cooper said. "It will be cool to meet the people who are really doing this sort of thing for our government."
Important people, indeed.
On their first day in Washington, the team hit the ground running with a welcome ceremony hosted by Vice President Biden.
Biden praised the team's championship win and spoke about the importance of global cybersecurity that adapts to evolving threats.
He was joined by Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator; Dr. Patricia Falcone, associate director for national security and international affairs in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Rand Beers, senior advisor to the president; and Julia Pierson, director of the Secret Service.
Lynn Dugle, President of Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business, added her congratulations to the team while emphasizing the importance of growing America's next generation of cyber talent.
Dugle discussed how Raytheon recognized a need for increased investment in cyber talent following its 2013 study of the millennial generation's interest in cyber careers. Raytheon made the decision to sponsor the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition as a way to strengthen the talent pipeline, she said.
Dugle also announced that Raytheon will donate $25,000 to the University of Central Florida's cybersecurity scholarship fund.
Students Cody McMahon and Carlos Beltran shared their appreciation for Raytheon's support of NCCDC and the time donated by the many Raytheon employees who served as coaches, mentors and judges at schools and events nationwide. With their help, the team rose from 10th place in 2013 to win the championship this year.
Team members also attended a reception led by Jack Harrington, Raytheon vice president of cybersecurity and special missions; and Jeff Snyder, Raytheon vice president of cyber programs.
The Knights started the next day at Raytheon's offices in Arlington, Virginia, where a panel of experts discussed the company's approach to cyber defense and its role in the Defense Advanced Research Agency's (DARPA)'s Plan X cyber program.
The students then put their skills to the test with a Raytheon-developed interactive code challenge using a malware capture tool.
The challenge required students who normally work together to compete against one another. Grant Hernandez, a second-year member of the team, won the challenge and walked away with an Oculus Rift virtual reality 3D headset as his prize.
The team later visited the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Intellectual Property Rights Center, where they learned how the United States is protecting companies' most valuable assets from cyber threats.
The final day of the trip featured a visit to the Secret Service's Rowley Training Center, where the students experienced what it takes to be an agent, and a tour of the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Hub, where they got a behind-the-scenes look at the people and technologies defending the country.
"Everyone from Raytheon has been so incredibly supportive," student Joe Pate said.
The kudos kept coming even during their trip home. When the U.S. Airways flight attendant found out why the team had visited Washington, she led the packed plane in a round of applause.
The team members haven't let the rock-star treatment go to their heads, however. Their planning for the 2015 cyber competition has already begun, Cooper said, and tryouts for next year's team start in a few weeks.
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