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Cyber schools competition

Six school teams of tech-savvy 14- to 17-year-olds from across the UK are competing in a ‘Back to the Future’ meets ‘Robot Wars’ cyber competition to find young cyber defenders. The Schools Final of the Cyber Security Challenge UK is run in association with the defence product company Raytheon, in an effort to increase cyber education and fill the cyber skills gap in the UK.

After months of code-breaking exercises and a virtual competition run in IT lessons and after school coding clubs around the UK, six teams will make it to the final at Cheltenham, where the competition launched two years ago. Teams collect clues by completing mini-challenges around Cheltenham Science Festival, where the theme of the Science Zone this year is ‘Back to the Future’.

Receiving engineering parts such as a remote control car, a software package and additional hardware, teams will be able to construct their own drones to compete in the final ‘cyber battlefield’ at Cheltenham College in the afternoon.

Once teams are in the ring, they need to use their drones to defend themselves from their peers’ attacks, which will include denial of service attacks (causing any bots in the near area to lose power) as well as long-range targeted attacks to disarm individuals that are in the lead. The ultimate winner will have to collect ‘spare fuel’ from sensor pads and bring it to base to power the ‘Flux Capacitor’ and bring the team home. All school teams will get to take their homemade drones back to their schools and the winning team will win a host of other prizes.

Paul Crichard, head of Cyber Research at Raytheon UK, said: “Cyber security is vital to Raytheon’s core business, and as such, cyber education is high on our agenda. There is a serious cyber skills gap at present and we are looking for people with a passion for solving the most difficult problems in science, technology and defence.

“As part of our ongoing programme to promote STEM careers – we have recently launched a number of initiatives, including a Quadcopter Challenge, which allows schools near Raytheon’s cross-country bases to compete to build fully operational four-bladed multi-rotor, remotely piloted air systems. Competitions like this and the Cyber Security Challenge really bring to life the true value of a career in the security sector – where both physical and virtual infrastructure protect our country every day.”

In its third year, the Cyber Security Challenge Schools Programme is delivered in association with professional bodies, UK universities and major industry employers providing content, including Raytheon, BT, Smallpiece Trust, Sophos, AFCEA (UK) Academic Trust, CompTia, (ISC)2, Grids for Learning and GCHQ. It’s been set up to support cyber security teaching in schools; industry partners have helped to develop teaching packs in order to spark students’ interest in code-breaking and cyber security. The lesson plans are designed to hone IT skills, crack codes and to learn vital soft skills needed in the security arena, such as teamwork, organisation and timings.

Stephanie Daman, CEO, Cyber Security Challenge UK, says: “Engaging young people in cyber related subjects is vital if we are going to have the talent for the future. Cyber knowledge is invaluable in today’s globally connected world. Taking part in clubs and competitions like this will allow students to learn and get excited about careers in cyber security and by engaging with sponsors such as Raytheon, they can talk to real life professionals and see for themselves what their future career path may look like.”



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