Science & Technology

UWF to host CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense State Competition

The University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity will host five student teams from Pine Forest High School for the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense State Competition on Friday, Jan. 29 at the University.

This is the second year that Pine Forest High School will compete in the national cybersecurity competition, with support from the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and the school district. Participation from the Northwest Florida region increased from two teams last year to five teams this year, including an all-female team. Four of the five teams scored in the second-highest or gold tier. More than 3,300 middle- and high-school student teams representing all 50 states are registered for the national competition this year.

“Cybersecurity is critical to our nation’s future, and the demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals is expected to rise to 6 million globally by 2019 with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million according to a recent report,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, interim director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and associate dean of the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering. “By partnering with local schools and engaging K-12 students in hands-on learning experiences and competitions, we aim to expand the cybersecurity workforce pipeline and inspire the next generation of cybersecurity experts and leaders.”

CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program developed by the Air Force Association. 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-expenses paid trip to Baltimore, Maryland, for the National Finals Competition, where they can earn national recognition and scholarships.

“Escambia County Schools, Pensacola State College and UWF all face the challenge of preparing today’s students for careers of the future – careers that may not even be known about today,” said Malcolm Thomas, superintendent of schools in Escambia County. “Cybersecurity is an example of a relatively new career field. Working together to bring experiences like this introduces them to a possible future career. It is very encouraging to know that the participation has more than doubled this year.”

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 cybersecurity students also provided coaching support and training for the students in preparation for the competition. The collaboration is part of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity’s efforts to encourage students toward careers in cybersecurity through engaging and interactive educational experiences and competitions.

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