Around 60 Central Ohio students will come to Columbus State Community College for "capture the flag" on Friday. But it's not like the schoolyard game many kids are used to - rather, it's a cyber security challenge that organizers hope will energize students to join the growing field.
The Ohio National Guard organized the effort with more than 100 public, private, military and educational organizations, forming a group called the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3).
“This competition is addressing growing the workforce, getting more kids interested in cyber, teaching them how to become cyber experts, and then getting them into that educational pipeline," says Mark Bell, the Ohio National Guard's cyber security outreach coordinator.
Bell says Ohio has a shortage of about 20,000 people in cyber security, and the problem is growing across the nation.
"As you look at the constant growth in the use of computer technology for everything that we do in manufacturing, data analytics, everything, in order to keep those systems safe we have to have trained cyber experts," Bell says.
During the competition, students will work in teams of two to solve a series of real-world scenarios to test their technical skills and knowledge of cyber security. Students will be awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies.
Bell adds that the cyber security competition is only the beginning for OC3. The next phase includes creating a physical site for a "cyber range" at the University of Cincinnati, which is set to open in January.
That site will be used as a "virtual training ground" that can be used for competitions and other tests. Two more will be established elsewhere in the state.
“What the cyber range does is it gives you that hands-on training so the students when they graduate from school actually know how to do what they need to do and are ready to go on day one," Bell says.
The goal, Bell says, is to enable Ohio students to be able to reach a cyber range within an hour's drive.