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Engaging Underrepresented Students in Cybersecurity using Capture-the-Flag(CTF) Competitions (Experience)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Michel A. Kornegay Morgan State University

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Dr. Michel A. Kornegay (Reece) is currently an Associate Professor and a senior faculty researcher for the Center of Reverse Engineering and Assured Microelectronics (CREAM) in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Morgan State University. In this center, she pursues research in the areas of wireless signal characterization and device authentication of IoT devices. She is also the director of the laboratory for Advanced RF/Microwave Measurement and Electronic Design (ARMMED) in which her team of student researchers does high-frequency device characterization and modeling for III-V semiconductors, MMIC circuit design, highly efficient solid-state power amplifier networks, adaptable electronic components for software defined radio applications and most recently power amplifier development for sub-THz mobile communication applications. She became the first female recipient at Morgan State to obtain her doctorate degree in engineering in 2003. She received her B.S.E.E from Morgan State in 1995 and her M.S from Penn State in 1997, both in electrical engineering. She has worked at companies such as Northrop Grumman, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and Boeing (formerly known as Hughes Aircraft Company). She has a passion for education where she has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and participated as a volunteer tutor to middle and high school students within her local community.

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Md Tanvir Arafin Morgan State University

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Dr. Tanvir Arafin is an Assistant Professor at the ECE Department at Morgan State University. He is also affiliated with the Cyber-Security Assurance and Policy Center (CAP). He received M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016, and 2018.Dr. Arafin’s research focuses on hardware-based authentication, memory systems, and distributed neuromorphic computing. Dr. Arafin’s work has been published in several top-tier peer-reviewed journals and conferences, such as IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration Systems (TVLSI), ACM International Conference on Computer-Aided Design (ICCAD), and Asia and South Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC). He won the IEEE Asian Hardware Oriented Security and Trust Symposium (AsianHOST) best paper award in 2018. He was a recipient of the prestigious A. James Clerk School of Engineering fellowship (2012).

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Kevin Kornegay Morgan State University

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Kevin T. Kornegay received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, in 1985 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990 and 1992, respectively. He is currently the IoT Security Professor and Director of the Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center for Academic Excellence in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. His research interests include hardware assurance, reverse engineering, secure embedded systems, and smart home/building security. Dr. Kornegay serves or has served on the technical program committees of several international conferences, including the IEEE Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust (HOST), IEEE Secure Development Conference (SECDEV), USENIX Security 2020, the IEEE Physical Assurance and Inspection of Electronics (PAINE), and the ACM Great Lakes Symposium on VLSI (GLSVLSI). He serves on the State of Maryland Cybersecurity Council and the National Academy of Sciences Intelligence Community Science Board Cybersecurity Committee. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the NSF CAREER Award, IBM Faculty Partnership Award, National Semiconductor Faculty Development Award, and the General Motors Faculty Fellowship Award. He is currently a senior member of the IEEE and a member of Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor societies.

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To increase minority students' participation, particularly African Americans in cyber fields, STEM engineering education requires a new approach to student learning. Students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. The concept of gamification is an emerging alternative approach that adds game elements to traditional instruction, engaging students in learning engineering concepts. In recent years, capture-the-flag competitions have emerged as a gamification approach to training and building students' interest in cybersecurity.

During the spring 2019 academic term, a team of students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of Morgan State University participated in an embedded capture-the-flag (eCTF) competition organized by MITRE. The eCTF was also offered as a graduate course in the department. This graduate course included a cohort of minority students who had been exposed to fundamental concepts regarding secure embedded systems. We found that the eCTF allowed students to work in teams, develop critical thinking skills, address complex technical issues associated with real-world applications, and motivated continued learning and increased research productivity after the course ended. This paper aims to describe the design and implementation of the eCTF competition in the graduate course and summarize the successes and the barriers that impact the engagement of minority students in cybersecurity.

Kornegay, M. A., & Arafin, M. T., & Kornegay, K. (2021, July), Engaging Underrepresented Students in Cybersecurity using Capture-the-Flag(CTF) Competitions (Experience) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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