UVU Places First in International Cybersecurity Strategy Challenge in Second Year of Competing

In a David vs. Goliath-type international cybersecurity competition, a group of Utah Valley University national security students took on powerhouse schools and won.


In a David vs. Goliath-type international cybersecurity competition, a group of Utah Valley University national security students took on powerhouse schools and won.

UVU’s team of bachelor’s degree-seeking students, the UVU “W0LV3R1NES,” in just their second year of competition, took first place in the Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. The team went head-to-head with graduate and Ph.D. students from top universities including Tufts, Georgetown, Columbia, New York, American, and Duke universities in addition to West Point, the Air Force Academy, and the Naval Academy.

“This win demonstrates the exceptional quality of the National Security Program here at UVU,” said Brandon Amacher, a private-sector cybersecurity professional. “The faculty is full of seasoned industry professionals, and the students are some of the best and brightest you will ever meet.”

Members of the student team were Andrew Jensen, Mark Driggs, Alec Heitzmann, Hunter Karr, Ashton Earl, Bryton Jensen, and Edward Goebel. They were coached by UVU Professor Jonathan Rudd, Andre Jones, and Amacher. Vogel worked alongside the teams and coaches as director of the National security studies program at UVU.

The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition designed to provide students across academic disciplines with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crisis and conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack and analyze the threat it poses to national, international, and private sector interests. 

“As director of the program and center, I have worked with these students and coaches over the years, and it is an amazing thing to see what they have accomplished here,” said Ryan Vogel, director of National Security Studies at UVU. “As an undergraduate team in just our second year competing, it was a huge feat to win this competition over all the elite teams from across the country and world.”

This year’s competition consisted of 36 teams from across the United States, as well as Australia, Chile, and South Africa. Teams included undergraduate, graduate, military, and private-sector participants. Last year, UVU made it to the semifinals but did not make it to the final round. This year, UVU won the entire competition, advancing to the semifinals and then beating out two other powerful teams, Columbia and Tufts, in the final round.

“It was a great feeling to beat out other really prominent schools,” said Andrew Jensen, a junior at UVU and W0LV3R1NES team member. “We were the only purely undergraduate team competing. The list was filled with schools that have many more graduate programs and students than we do. We worked through the night several nights in a row to make sure that we had the best preparation possible. UVU students can do just as much as any student at any other university.”

Due to COVID-19, the UVU team was unable to fly to Washington, D.C., to compete in person. However, this didn’t stop them from competing virtually. Despite the challenge being held virtually this year, UVU students made the best of this opportunity by digitally rubbing shoulders with nationally renowned cybersecurity and policy minds.

“One of the greatest rewards of teaching, mentoring, and coaching is the chance to see students learn, grow, and excel,” said Rudd, UVU professor and head faculty coach. “UVU has amazing students who have so much talent. It was incredible to watch these students pull together, work hard, and showcase their abilities in an international competition.”

To learn more about the UVU program, visit uvu.edu/nss/.