At the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences’ eighth Cybersecurity Hackathon, undergraduate and graduate students from the New York City, Long Island, and Vancouver campuses rolled up their sleeves to take part in a six-hour competition.
The virtual event, held on April 30 and hosted by the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC), introduces New York Tech students to cybersecurity.
Michael Nizich, Ph.D., director of the ETIC, organized the hackathon with assistance from Associate Professor of Computer Science Paolo Gasti, Ph.D., who created the five final and most difficult challenges. Nizich kicked off the event with an explanation of the challenge and the ground rules. Then the student participants formed teams up of up to three students each. Once the hackathon got started, each team raced to solve the 15 challenges that were presented in zip files. As the participants solved one challenge and downloaded the zip file, they received a hint for the next file name. The goal was to solve the most challenges in the shortest amount of time by exactly 4:00 p.m.
“Basically, it’s an encryption/cryptographic-based scavenger hunt, and as you solve each challenge, it’s going to point you to the next one,” said Nizich. “You won’t know where the next challenge is unless you solve the first one.”
At noon, the teams took a break to hear from a guest speaker from the event sponsor, Cybersafe Solutions, LLC. Michael Campisi (M.S. ’19), operations analyst at Cybersafe Solutions, offered students advice on how to break into the cybersecurity industry and how his involvement in projects at the ETIC as a student at New York Tech helped advance his career.
“I got a ton of experience in the ETIC, and I think that was one of the most valuable pieces of my education at New York Tech,” he said. When he was a student, Campisi wrote the original Python operating system for E.R.R.S.E.L.A., the ETIC Research Robot for Student Engagement and Learning Activities. “I was there when E.R.R.S.E.L.A. was just conceived from an idea. We started putting work in, and it’s been growing steadily ever since. It’s great to see that [students] are still working and adding onto her.”
He also explained that participating in different design and cyber hackathons can be beneficial for skills building as well. “It’s great for problem-solving abilities…to be able to think outside of the box, come up with multiple solutions to a problem, test them, and find a correct one,” said Campisi.
After the guest speaker and Q&A session, the hackathon resumed, and the participants worked to solve the challenges until the deadline. The winning teams finished all 15 challenges, and the rankings were based on the time that they finished the challenge.
- Karan Thakkar (M.S., Cybersecurity)
- Guang Wei Too (B.S., Computer Science)
- Michael Aquino (B.S, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
- Christian Perez (B.S., Information Technology)
- Hayden Diaz (B.S., Computer Science)
- Monica Borobia Arias (B.S., Mechanical Engineering)