Lockheed Martin and the University of Central Florida celebrated the grand opening of a new Cyber Innovation Lab on UCF’s campus that will help meet the growing local and national need for cybersecurity talent.

“This lab will serve as the campus’ primary hub for students to develop and expand their information security skills, preparing them to enter this high-demand field and take on the cyber security threats of the future.”— UCF President Dale Whittaker

The lab’s opening was celebrated with a ribbon cutting, a demonstration by UCF’s Collegiate Cyber Defense Club (Hack@UCF) and a panel discussion with U.S. military and Lockheed Martin cyber experts about technology trends and how students can prepare for a career in the growing field.

The 970-square-foot lab is in the atrium of UCF’s Engineering I building and will serve as a learning hub, classroom, and the practice center for Hack@UCF. In November 2018, Lockheed Martin donated $1.5 million to UCF to help create the Cyber Innovation Lab and encourage the next-generation of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent to collaborate and solve today’s challenging cyber problems. The company’s donation will fund software and technology support to the lab, and employees will also provide cyber training and professional mentoring to engineering students.

“This lab will serve as the campus’ primary hub for students to develop and expand their information security skills, preparing them to enter this high-demand field and take on the cyber security threats of the future,” says UCF President Dale Whittaker. “We are grateful for Lockheed Martin’s longtime partnership and strong commitment to our students’ success.”

UCF provides more graduates to aerospace and defense companies than any other university in the country, and UCF continues to grow cyber research and education through its Cyber Security and Privacy Faculty Cluster, an interdisciplinary research team focused on comprehensive solutions to human and technological causes of security and privacy problems. It’s estimated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that there are more than 13,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Florida alone, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs for information security analysts will grow by 28 percent by 2026.

“The future battlespace will be heavily reliant on cyber… even more so than we’re seeing today,” says Stephanie C. Hill, deputy executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems. “By working with institutions like UCF, through labs like this one, we’ll all better understand and accelerate our shared capabilities and potential to adapt and innovate in the fifth domain.”

UCF rose to national prominence in cyber defense education when Hack@UCF won three back-to-back championships in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Hack@UCF also in 2018 won the U.S. Department of Energy CyberForce Competition. The student club, with more than 350 members, continues to dominate in collegiate competitions throughout the country.

“Having a centralized space will streamline the way we organize our meetings and practices,” says Hack@UCF President David Maria, a senior studying computer engineering.  “With this lab, we can practice for competitions, host workshops and speakers, provide cyber security tools and resources, and give our student members a sense of community and help get them ready for future careers. It’s not just a practice space. It’s a home for us.”

In 2016, UCF was named as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The designation, which brings prestige and additional access to scholarships and research grants to UCF, comes under a federal program that’s meant to reduce the vulnerability of the nation’s information infrastructure by strengthening higher education and research in cyberdefense.

Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Solutions business in Orlando has grown by 400 percent over the past five years and continues to grow in response to the nation’s critical need for offensive and defensive cybersecurity capabilities in today’s evolving threat environment.

Lockheed Martin provides paid work experience to approximately 650 UCF students a year and hires more graduates from UCF than any other university in the country.