CPS Students Compete in Virginia Cyber Competition

Group of 8 diverse students and 1 faculty member at the competition in a formal group photo.
GW’s team of cybersecurity students at the competition. Left to right, back row: Prof. White, Hamdy Atakora, Kristique Storm, Devin Smith, Kristina Kukarkina, Farhan Ahammad; Left to right, front row: Andrew Pham, Christopher Celestino, Brian Yun.
March 01, 2019

The world of cybersecurity is full of challenges and unknown dangers. Last week, a team of six GW cybersecurity bachelor’s degree students participated in a hands-on learning experience to help them be ready for the real challenges they will face in their future careers. Our student team, comprised of six graduating seniors, with two junior students observing, competed in the invitation-only Commonwealth Cyber Fusion 2019 competition, held February 22-23, 2019 at Virginia Military Institute (VMI).

This is the third year GW students participated in the competition, which is invitation-only for Virginia community colleges and universities that are National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Security (NCAE).

During the event students had the opportunity to participate in cyber challenges, learn from industry professionals, network, and attend a cyber job fair. The event’s goal, co-hosted by Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va), is to foster the next generation of cybersecurity professionals in Virginia.

“Events such as Cyber Fusion, give our students a great opportunity to operationalize the skills they have learned in the classroom, whilst at the same time speak to industry professional, recruiters and students from other Universities and Colleges in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Scott White, program director for the Cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program and team head coach for the competition.

The GW Competing Student Team, all seniors, included: Mr. Hamdy Atakora; Mr. Christopher Celestino; Mr. Andrew Pham; Mr. Devin Smith; Ms. Kristique Storm and Mr. Brian Yun.

GW also had two observer students, Mr. Farhan Ahammad and Ms. Kristina Kukarkina, both juniors, who plan to compete next year. Dr. Scott White, program director, acted as the Team’s Head Coach, supported in his role by Mr. Kyle Fiducia, an adjunct professor in the program.

During the Virginia Cyber Cup Capture the Flag competition, GW’s team competed against other universities to tackle problems in scenarios designed to model real-world computer security challenges across a range of categories that included cryptography, network traffic analysis, reverse engineering, steganography, and more.

"The event was fun and very organized. I felt excited when the competition kicked off and we all rushed to see what challenges were set before us," said Andrew Pham, one of GW's competing students. "We quickly realized communication and time efficiency were critical. The only people you could rely on were your team, and under that pressure I also felt comradery. Being part of a small team meant you had to work together, share findings and contribute your skills. You had to be sure in what you were doing as you were the pilot in tackling that hurdle. Capturing the flags left to me filled me with pride and watching my team members solve other problems I couldn’t was inspiring. Our successes were met with cheers and our failures with renewed determination."  

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