By Jonah Grinkewitz

The Coastal Virginia Cybersecurity Student Association (CVCSA) held its first capture-the-flag contest, CyberForge 2022, on March 26 at Old Dominion University. Teams of cybersecurity students competed in various challenges in a Jeopardy!-style format.

“CyberForge is the culmination of over a year of planning by the CVCSA team, and it was a great success,” said John Costanzo, executive director of the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber ​​Innovation (COVA CCI). “These types of events bring together students from different schools who have varying levels of experience and computer skills in an environment where they are tested in real time.”

Sixty-one students working across 23 teams from ODU, Tidewater Community College, ECPI University, and Virginia Beach City Public Schools, representing the Advanced Technology Center and Princess Anne High School, participated in the event. .

“As the regional node of the Commonwealth Cyber ​​Initiative, one of our goals is to promote collaboration between regional partners, which our student body has demonstrated through this event,” said Brian Payne, vice- rector for academic affairs and director of COVA CCI.

James Read, CVCSA President and ODU Cybersecurity Graduate Student, said, “As a regional association, CVCSA hopes to bring this event to other schools, showcasing their students and campuses, while bringing students from all over the region to develop their skills and teamwork through playful learning.”

ODU students Riley Pfister, Trevor Simmons and Kirk Smith won first place at the event. Cameron Grimsley, Donovan Coats, Brysen Korr and Martin Philips of the Advanced Technology Center came second. A team consisting of Arthur Hill and John Hill (ODU) and Sebastian Tubbs and Scott Maker (TCC) came third.

“Capturing the flag events is fun, and I learned something I didn’t know before from each one I went to,” said Pfister, a senior in ODU’s cybersecurity bachelor’s program. “Your capture the flag is going to be confusing or even overwhelming, but get in there and get the job done. You might not win, but you’ll leave the event knowing more than you knew at the start, and that’s a victory.”

Each team had to examine a network capture file for data to enter into a website to find the flag. Simmons said it was a different challenge that involved using software he doesn’t normally use.

“These events are a great way to improve existing skills and learn new ones,” Simmons said.

Funded by COVA CCI, the CVCSA was first considered during the COVA CCI sponsored Innovate Cyber ​​Challenge in the spring of 2020, where students from ODU, Christopher Newport University and Tidewater Community College competed. developed the idea of ​​creating a student organization focused on closing the cybersecurity skills gap. and prepare students to enter the job market. To do this, they plan to partner with cybersecurity clubs at universities and colleges in the region.

“CVCSA’s mission is to ‘bridge the gap’ by helping students bridge the gap between the skills they learn in the classroom and the requirements needed for entry-level cyber jobs,” Read said. “Long term, CVCSA wants to provide curated learning paths and a mentorship program to guide cybersecurity students in achieving their goals.”

COVA CCI, led by Old Dominion University, is one of four nodes of the publicly funded Commonwealth Cyber ​​Initiative (CCI). The other nodes are Northern Virginia (George Mason University), Central Virginia (Commonwealth University of Virginia), and Southwest Virginia (Virginia Tech). Visit the COVA CCI website – – to learn more about this organization.

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