The RUSecure CTF Contests are built upon the challenge-based and just-in-time learning models.  Contestants/Teams attempt to solve a variety of Cybersecurity challengs supported by high-impact learning materials, videos, etc.  The Contest is specifically designed to address three roadblocks to expanding the participation of students in CS and Cybersecurity:

·     Lack of prerequisite knowledge – educational materials, videos, slides, links etc. are provided so that students learn whatever lessons they need to solve the specific challenge at the moment that they need those lessons

·     Lack of teacher preparation – In our surveys of our surrounding school districts, very few had any teachers with the necessary background to teach CS and Cybersecurity.  Those that did have such expertise were generally in higher income suburban districts.  It is our belief that a student’s future in Cybersecurity must not be determined by their Zipcode.

·     Lack of access to IT resources – hands on lessons in Cybersecurity require access to a secure and isolated sandbox where students can try things with very little risk.  Most high schools cannot provide such an environment.  Through the RUSecure CTF Contests, we provide access to a VMWare virtual sandbox that allows students to try things that they would not otherwise be able to access.

 

We have used this same approach to work with teachers both in our graduate coursework, designed specifically to increase the number of qualified teachers, and in our Gen-Cyber and other teacher camps, likewise designed to increase the pipeline by increasing the availability of qualified faculty.

 

The RUSecure CTF Contest has grown from its inception in 2014 with 35 students to a pre-pandemic peak of more than 2000 students in 2019.

 

Year

Number of Teams

Number of Students

Number of Schools

2014

9

36

4

2015

13

56

7

2016

18

81

9

2016-2017

70

303

32

2017-2018

130

546

58

2018-2019

345

1449

106

2019-2020*

505

2057

123

2020-2021*

302

1233

70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* note that both 2020 and 2021 Contests were greatly impacted by the pandemic

 

 

The RUSecure CTF Contest is made up of three rounds:

·     Preparatory Round - open to all participants; includes hints and educational materials (motivation and education – Scare and Prepare)

·     Qualifying Round open to all participants but without the hints and educational materials (motivation and assessment – Dare)

·     Final Round is open to the top teams from the Qualifying Round (motivation and assessment – Dare and Celebrate).  

In the Spring of 2019, the RUSecure CTF Final Round was live-streamed on the front page of Twitch.tv yielding more than 80,000 unique views.