UCF is becoming a cybersecurity dynasty. A UCF student team defeated more than 94 teams from across the country last weekend to win the university’s fourth U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) CyberForce Competition. This year marks the UCF Collegiate Cyber Defense Club’s third consecutive win, and the university also placed first in 2018.

Also competing in the in-person competition in St. Charles, Illinois, another team of UCF students took fourth place. Each team included six students, many of whom are studying computer science, cyber security and privacy, digital forensics and information technology.

CyberForce addresses the U.S. government’s goal to promote cybersecurity workforce development by helping to build a pipeline of cyber professional candidates to enter the operational technology cybersecurity workforce.

“CyberForce helps our students strengthen the skills and confidence they need to be thoroughly prepared for successful careers after they graduate,” says the team’s faculty advisor and head coach Tom Nedorost.

Proof that the UCF students are prepared to become key players in the industry of cybersecurity, this year’s competitors have interned with such firms as Amazon, IBM, KPMG, Palo Alto Networks, Planate and Texas Instruments, and many are on pace to continue working for them after graduation.

UCF is a powerhouse for cyber defense programs and is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research. In 2021, the U.S. National Science Foundation awarded a $2.9 million grant to provide cybersecurity scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students. UCF also houses a Cyber Security and Privacy Research Faculty Cluster Initiative, which examines a breadth of interdisciplinary areas.

The CyberForce Competition is sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and managed by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). It started in 2016 to provide students with hands-on cybersecurity experience through interactive, energy cyber-focused scenarios.

In an increasingly digitized world, a skilled cybersecurity workforce becomes even more valuable to industry and the U.S. energy sector.

The Collegiate Cyber Defense Club at UCF, known as Hack@UCF, boasts 312 members.

The annual CyberForce Competition uses a hands-on security approach to engage students in emergency scenarios, and challenges students to safeguard the nation’s critical energy sector. This year, the scenario involved students working for a distributed energy resource (DER) management company.

This year’s winning teams consisted of the following students:

Team A  (first place)
Jeffrey DiVincent ’23 (team captain)
Zachary Groome
Matthew McKeever
Caitlin Whitehead
Cameron Whitehead
Caleb Wisley

Team B  (fourth place)
Harrison Keating (team captain)
Milo Gilad
Colton Knight
Noah Magill
Caleb Sjostedt
Andrew Terry

The UCF Collegiate Cyber Defense Club’s fourth place team in the 2023 CyberForce Competition (left to right):Martin Roberts (assistant coach), Noah Magill, Harrison Keating (team captain), Colton Knight, Andrew Terry, Miles Gilad, Caleb Sjostedt, Tom Nedorost (coach).