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Effective Competitions for Broadening Participation in Cybersecurity

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2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference


Boulder, Colorado

Publication Date

March 25, 2018

Start Date

March 25, 2018

End Date

March 27, 2018

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John Y Oliver California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Oliver is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and is the director of the Computer Engineering program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Oliver is also a program director for the California Cyber Training Complex (CCTC). His field of expertise is in computer architecture, system performance analysis and digital forensics. His teaching activities focus on embedded systems, digital circuit design, sustainability issues with electronics and computer forensics.

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Cassidy Elwell

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Cybersecurity is a national priority and the demand for a qualified cybersecurity workforce has never been higher. To address this need, cybersecurity competitions have been promoted as a way to increase participation in cybersecurity amongst high school students. Through observations of high school cybersecurity competitions, we find that these competitions focus narrowly on good computer skills. In contrast, the characteristics of an effective cybersecurity professional, in addition to good computer skills, also include: the ability to think critically, the ability to function on teams and the ability to communicate effectively, none of which are emphasized in most high school cybersecurity competitions. Additionally, the privacy and ethical ramifications of cybersecurity, are often omitted from standard high school cybersecurity competitions.

In this paper, we detail the design and delivery of a cyber security competition called the California Cyber Innovation Challenge (CCIC). The CCIC featured an immersive digital forensics competition highlighting the need for the protection of critical infrastructure and privacy concerns of IoT devices. Student teams performed forensics analysis, criminal timeline reconstruction and had to defend their findings to a panel of criminal justice professionals. Using feedback from the competition, we argue that by emphasizing the broader set of cybersecurity-related skills, we can promote a higher level of engagement as well as have a broader appeal to high school students.

Oliver, J. Y., & Elwell, C. (2018, March), Effective Competitions for Broadening Participation in Cybersecurity Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference, Boulder, Colorado.

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