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Cyber Champs Discover D.C.

Capital tour celebrates team's triumph, from West Wing to Secret Service driving demo

Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business, joins Coach Tom Nedorost and the 2015 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition winners from the University of Central Florida.

They rode shotgun with the Secret Service, checked out the chairs in the House chamber and took an up-close look at a cyber crime investigation lab.

For the second straight year, a team of University of Central Florida students went on a Raytheon-sponsored tour of Washington, D.C., in celebration of their win at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

The tour showed students the new cyber technologies that government and industry are using to fight Internet threats, and gave them a better understanding of the job opportunities that await them after college. Raytheon is also donating $25,000 to the school's cybersecurity scholarship fund in recognition of the team's victory.

“Here I am, standing a block from the White House with the Washington Monument behind me, and I can't deny that it's made a great impact on me,” said team member Shane Welch, 22. “Seeing these patriotic symbols is very inspiring, and reminds one of a greater purpose.”

Among the first to congratulate the team was Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business, headquartered in Dulles, Virginia.

“Ten years ago this field was nascent. Today it’s driving innovation, the labor market and protecting our economy and our national security,” said Wajsgras. “We’ve invested in NCCDC, not only financially, but also with volunteers, technology, and even this tour, because we believe that directly supporting future cyber defenders is in our national interest.”

Alex Davis and Andres Giron-Arias, UCF students, take selfies during a White House West Wing tour in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, July 29.

Trip highlights included:

• Raytheon’s Cyber Operations and Development (CODE) Center, where experts test software and systems by exposing them to realistic cyber threats. A video game code-hacking contest followed, with the winners taking home a pair of mDrawBot drawing robot kits.
“I could’ve spent all day just doing the coding contest. It was that much fun,” said Jason Cooper, 23, team co-captain.
• A tour of the Capitol, led by U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), whose district includes the university. Students saw the House and Senate floors and even sat in House chamber seats.
• Two stops at the White House: one a tour of the West Wing, the other a talk with technology leaders including Michael Daniel, President Obama's special assistant and cybersecurity coordinator.
• The National Cryptologic Museum at the National Security Agency, where the team turned an analytical eye on Enigma, the Nazi cypher machine whose code the Allies cracked to gain critical intelligence in World War II.
 “When they saw Enigma, it wasn’t, ‘Wow, a piece of history,’ but ‘Wow, how could I break into this?’” said Hahna Latonick, a Raytheon cyber engineer who escorted the group. “And then flip that, and now how can I secure it?”
• The U.S. Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center, where students hopped in souped-up Dodge Chargers as agents demonstrated evasive driving maneuvers on a closed track.
“This was the ride of my life — I don't think I've ever pulled more Gs before today,” said Andres Giron-Arias, a 25-year-old senior from Miami.
• The Defense Cyber Crime Center, a U.S. Air Force-operated forensics lab where cyber specialists showed how they can recover data from even heavily damaged devices.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent shows UCF students one of the many computer forensics labs in the Cyber Crime Center. The state-of-the-art center opened in June to combat cyber crime.

“The center looked like something out of the movies. It was like NCIS but the real thing,” said Giron-Arias, who hopes to find a job focused on Android forensics when he graduates in December.

The team has a good shot at landing those dream jobs, whether in the public or private sectors, NCCDC director Dwayne Williams said.

“These students are the elite when it comes to cybersecurity,” Williams said. “NCCDC and all the work leading up to it really prepares these students to hit the ground running.”

Keeping the world safer and educating the next generation of cyber defenders is exactly why Raytheon sponsors NCCDC.

“Raytheon has really embraced the competition and supported it; it’s truly a partnership,” Williams said. “What I appreciate is that it’s not about how Raytheon can benefit, but it’s all about supporting the students and getting kids interested in cyber as a career.  And this tour is a perfect example of that.” 

Published: 07/28/2015

Last Updated: 08/07/2015

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