Science & Technology

UWF partners with Escambia County School District to prepare high school students for national cybersecurity competition

The University of West Florida Department of Computer Science and Center for Cybersecurity will host an Air Force Association CyberCamp from Aug. 4 through 8, 2015. Two student teams from Pine Forest High School will participate in the camp.

AFA CyberCamps were conceived to supplement AFA CyberPatriot’s annual National Youth Cyber Defense Competition and to allow educational institutions to engage students in cybersecurity education throughout the year.

The AFA CyberCamp provides four days of instruction and training followed by a competition and includes instruction modules and access to accompanying demonstration software. The camp also provides access to novice Windows 7 and novice Ubuntu competition images on the approved camp’s scheduled competition day.

Pine Forest is the first high school in Escambia County School District to compete in the national cybersecurity competition thanks to support from the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and the district. More than 2,150 middle and high school student teams are registered for the national competition this year.

“It means a lot for our students to be able to participate,” said Angela Irby, cybersecurity instructor at Pine Forest High School. “It gives them hands-on experience. They really enjoy it and it gives them engagement, which is definitely a good thing. They’ve done well in their practice rounds, and I feel confident that they’ll do well in the competition.”

The CyberPatriot competition places middle and high school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. During the competition rounds, student teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and work to find and resolve cybersecurity vulnerabilities. They compete for top placement within their state and region to earn an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Finals Competition, where they can earn national recognition and scholarships.

In 2014, the University established a mentor relationship with Pine Forest, which is home to the school district’s only Cyber Academy. Anthony Pinto, computer science lecturer at UWF, and UWF computer science students provided coaching support and training for the PFHS students in preparation for the competition. The collaboration is part of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity’s efforts to gain Center for Academic Excellence designation from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

“Activities such as the AFA CyberCamp and CyberPatriot Competition allow us to partner with local area schools to inspire and prepare students toward careers in cybersecurity or related disciplines critical to our nation’s future,” said Eman El-Sheikh, interim director of the Center for Cybersecurity and associate dean, College of Science, Engineering and Health. “The number of jobs in cybersecurity is expected to grow tenfold in the next 10 years. To help meet that demand, we have to expand cybersecurity interest and education among K-12 students. We look forward to continuing to expand our partnerships with local area schools to increase the number of students preparing for cybersecurity careers.”

To learn more about the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, visit

For additional information about the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program, visit


About the University of West Florida: Founded in 1963, the University of West Florida is a vibrant, distinctive institution of higher learning with undergraduate, graduate and targeted research programs. With multiple locations in Northwest Florida, the University serves a student population of more than 12,000. Dedicated to helping students realize their full potential, UWF favors small class sizes with quality teacher-scholars who deliver personalized, innovative, hands-on learning and leadership opportunities.