In the year since the Lockheed Martin Cyber Innovation Lab opened its doors on UCF’s main campus, hundreds of students from multiple majors and disciplines have benefitted from the space dedicated to strengthening the pipeline of cyber workforce talent, addressing a critical need locally and nationally.

There are more than 13,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Florida alone, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and that trend is likely to continue. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs for information security analysts will grow 28 percent by 2026.

The 970-square-foot lab – located in the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Engineering I building – provides a dedicated practice and learning space for students studying cyber defense, offense and security topics, and was specifically designed to foster collaborative learning.

Lockheed Martin donated $1.5 million to help build the lab and equip it with the latest technology, large monitor displays and modern furniture, write-on walls and other features. The grand opening of the lab was celebrated Feb. 15, 2019, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with students and Lockheed Martin staff attending.

The lab space expands the strong partnership between Lockheed Martin and UCF – the company’s top workforce supplier globally. Lockheed Martin provides paid work experience to approximately 650 UCF students each year. On average, 60 percent of those students are offered full-time jobs. The company is the No. 1 employer for graduates of the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Business; and is the No. 4 employer for all UCF majors.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary, 20 local employers today hosted a job fair, which was followed by a panel of Lockheed Martin cyber experts who discussed cyber trends and provided advice to students interested in careers in cyber security. The panel was moderated by Thomas Warner, vice president, Cyber Solutions. Panelists included Joshua Genao, cyber systems security engineer; Sharif Hassan, cyber test exploitation senior manager; Tom Plummer, cyber security fellow and program deputy technical director; Kaitlyn Plemmons, cyber test exploitation; and Jose Rodriguez, cyber architect manager.

“It is a great opportunity to chat with students about our careers and experiences in cyber at Lockheed Martin,” Plummer says. “I hope this exchange helps inspire and draw the interest of the next generation of cyber professionals to join our team.”

In the year since the lab opened, students on UCF’s highly decorated Collegiate Cyber Defense Club, also known as Hack@UCF with more than 200 members, have competed in numerous regional and national competitions. In November 2019, a UCF team placed second nationally in the Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition, a competition that UCF won in 2018. And an all-female team placed third in the Wicked6 games in Las Vegas. Hack@UCF also boasts national wins in 2014, 2015, 2016 at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

“The Lockheed Martin Cyber Innovation Lab has primarily helped us with connections,” says Peyton Duncan, vice president of Hack@UCF, and a junior studying computer science. “Prior to having the cyber lab, the club and especially the cyber security team here at UCF didn’t exactly have a place to come and be social and work together on different projects in order to learn things which they may not have learned by themselves or in class.”

Sahana Chandra, a sophomore studying computer science, says it’s important for students to have a place to feel comfortable and supported by other students interested in cyber defense and security.

“I think the most valuable thing that this lab has given us is a place where we can share knowledge and grow as a community,” Chandra said.

Other groups have used the space, including the student club KnightHacks, which competes to create computer-generated solutions to everyday problems, and faculty and staff in the master’s in data analytics program.