Northern Michigan University’s (NMU) YooperCon event helped facilitate capture the flag (CTF) competitions and other cybersecurity awareness-focused sessions to support nearly 240 high school students interested in pursuing cybersecurity education pathways in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan.
[Tampa, FL, January 10, 2022]: Northern Michigan University, an EC-Council Academia and ATC partner, hosted the YooperCon 2021 events in November for high school students to help them explore career opportunities in cybersecurity. This event was sponsored by the Upper Peninsula Cyber Institute, Cybersecurity Marshall Plan, and the MiSTEM Network.
The free 5-hour event organized for local high schools supported students while also offering professional development opportunities for faculty. The YooperCon event covered a number of interesting topics for students, including Hack a Car, Exploit Bugs, Defend Networks, Protect Your Data, Develop Programs, and Jump Start Your Career. Another central focus was to ensure NMU students could facilitate the event for the local high school students, encouraging a student mentoring model from postsecondary to secondary students.
Doug Miller, Director of the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute, says, “YooperCon ’21 was our first large-scale event with high school students and we wanted to incorporate a dedicated CTF environment for the students to learn and explore. Some of the students had never participated in a CTF event before and it was great to see how excited the students were when they started capturing their first flags. The support we received from the EC-Council team was fantastic—we could not have provided this experience without their support and help.”
Wesley Alvarez, Director of Academics at EC-Council, says, “It was wonderful to support a large-scale event like NMU’s YooperCon that focuses on educating and challenging high school students in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving industry, and students and adults of all ages should be encouraged by their local colleges and universities to pursue careers in this field. Many successful cybersecurity programs like those at NMU and the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute often focus on dedicating time and resources to cater to their local high schools and community, which has a lasting impact.”
(An NMU student assists a high school student during the YooperCon CTF session)
A portion of YooperCon included a CTF Cyber Competition, offering students a chance to showcase their skills. The CTF challenge was supported by EC-Council’s CyberQ platform, offering a team-oriented competition range environment focusing on a key Nmap experience for students. In teams of 10, students were presented with a number of tasks to complete, with the goal of obtaining information to capture as many flags as possible during the session.
(Local high school students compete in the CTF range in CyberQ)
Challenges started with a few basic flags, then became more comprehensive and difficult for students. Thirty-four flags were presented to each group in an hour-long session.
(CyberQ CTF Environment Nmap Challenge)
EC-Council enables accessible and affordable competitions through CyberQ to support academic environments while displaying how these competitions map to job roles within the NICE Framework. Events like YooperCon help boost the cybersecurity competition landscape across secondary and postsecondary education environments to encourage students, help them develop skills, and increase the number of workforce-ready professionals. The aim is to encourage more employers to scout students and prospective employees through competitions and performance-based cyber range technologies.
About the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute at Northern Michigan University
The Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute (UPCI) at Northern Michigan University is the only facility of its kind in the Upper Peninsula and one of six statewide. The institute offers non-degree and industry credentials relevant to emerging careers in cybersecurity. It also augments NMU’s existing cyber defense bachelor’s degree and provides additional career exploration and training opportunities with area K-12 school districts and postsecondary institutions. Statewide hubs such as the one at NMU operate as a physical extension of the Michigan Cyber Range, the nation’s largest unclassified cyber range. Hubs offer more than 40 industry-recognized certifications, exercises, and workshops to qualify individuals for positions and contracts in cybersecurity fields.
EC-Council’s sole purpose is to build and refine the cybersecurity profession globally. At the core of its mission is helping organizations, educators, governments, and individuals address global workforce problems by developing and curating world-class cybersecurity education programs and certifications while also providing cybersecurity services to some of the largest businesses around the world. EC-Council is trusted by 7 of the Fortune 10, 47 of the Fortune 100, the Department of Defense, global intelligence communities, NATO, and more than 2,000 of the best universities, colleges, and training companies. EC-Council programs are in more than 140 countries and have set the bar in cybersecurity education.