First-Ever US Cyber Team, Led by Florida Tech’s O’Connor, Prepares for International Competition

International Cybersecurity Challenge Held June 14-17 in Athens, Greece

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The 21-member U.S. Cyber Team, coached by Florida Tech’s cybersecurity program director T.J. O’Connor, is headed to Greece for the International Cybersecurity Challenge June 14-17.

The team is part of the U.S. Cyber Games, a yearlong, traveling cybersecurity-meets-esports program built to encourage individuals interested in cybersecurity careers, to enable them to build confidence and skills through competitions, and to become better prepared and connected to the cybersecurity workforce. 

“I am incredibly excited to be heading to Athens to serve as head coach of the U.S. Cyber Games team for the International Cyber Competition,” O’Connor said. “As a junior faculty member, I am humbled by the support and opportunities Florida Tech and the L3 Harris Institute for Assured Information have created.”

image of TJ O'Connor from mid chest up.
TJ O’Connor

The aim of the international challenge is to attract early-career professionals and raise awareness locally, regionally and globally of the education and skills needed in the area of cybersecurity. Teams from around the globe come together to compete in a series of challenges, including web application and system exploitation, cryptography, reverse engineering, hardware challenges, and attack/defense challenges.

“The excitement is tangible as we prepare to travel to the ICC finals,” said Jessica Gulick, U.S. Cyber Games commissioner. “Our coaches, captains and athletes have dedicated many hours of preparation for this special, first-ever event. We are honored and thankful for being invited by ENISA to what is sure to be a memorable and exciting event.” 

ENISA, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, and regional and international organizations representing over 64 countries have been preparing for this first-time event since early 2021.

“We are looking forward to welcoming all teams in Athens for the first International Cybersecurity Challenge,” said Demosthenes Ikonomou, head of capacity building unit, ENISA. “We have prepared two days with tough challenges for some of the brightest cyber athletes in the world. We hope the ICC will inspire many young, talented individuals to pursue a career in cybersecurity.”

O’Connor, who advises the university’s award-wining competitive cybersecurity team, has seen how effective competitions can be for teaching.

“I believe in the power of cybersecurity competition to help educate and train our students and workforce,” he said. “Florida Tech has embraced this model, leading to our team’s success in national competitions. I now look forward to the ability to compete on an international stage.”

The U.S. Cyber Games program recruits, trains, mentors, and prepares the very best in cybersecurity through a series of competitions and training, including the U.S. Cyber Open Virtual Event and Capture the Flag (CTF) competition, U.S. Cyber Combine Invitational, and U.S. Cyber Team Draft. Once the team is selected, they participate in global scrimmages to help them prepare for the final competition.

The Games are led by Katzcy in cooperation with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  

“We celebrate the first-ever U.S. Cyber Team and look forward to the athletes demonstrating the skills acquired after much dedication and hard work these past several months preparing for the international competition,” said Rodney Petersen, director of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. “The U.S. Cyber Games yearlong process legitimizes cybersecurity competitions as an impactful way to develop skilled cybersecurity athletes and provides a platform for the United States to identify and showcase some of our best and brightest talent.”

The U.S. Cyber Team traveling to Greece is comprised of Samuel Hayden (Head Captain), Samuel Meyers (RvB Captain), Sears Schulz (CTF Captain), Aiden Benderly, Bobby Corser, Susan Jeziorowski, Chriss Issing, John Johnson, Chandi Kanhai, Joshua Klosterman, Rajat Patel, Andrew Phillips, Tyler Randolph, Logan Stratton, Jake Smith, Jayden Bulexa, Austin King, Jarrod Monahan and Akosua Wordie. Christopher Roberts and Eric Leslie trained diligently to be on the team but were unable to travel.

In addition to O’Connor, Dane Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, is the Red vs. Blue Coach; Jasmine Jackson, senior application security engineer, The Walt Disney Studios, is CTF coach; and technical mentors are Bryson Payne, Ph.D., professor and director, Center for Cyber Ops, University of North Georgia, and Suzanna Schmeelk, Ph.D., assistant professor, St. John’s University.

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