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Wright College Continuing Education students are building real-world cyber skills—and having fun while doing it.

The 27 students enrolled in Wright’s National Cyber League – Capture the Flag (NCL-CTF) course this fall recently faced off in a three-day cybersecurity skills competition known as the NCL—or National Cyber League—Competition. The students scored well in both individual and team-based events, allowing Wright to place #45 in the “Power Rankings” among over 8,580 students from 510 colleges and universities.

Participating in the competition is a requirement of the NCL-CTF course, which offers students the opportunity to build their cyber skill set, work individually and as a team, and learn from subject matter experts in the industry. After successful completion of the competition, participants earn a “Scouting Report” that recognizes their knowledge and abilities, and shows future employers’ what they are capable of.

For the fall season games, the 27 students broke into four teams. The top-scoring team in the class, which was made up of seven students, received 32nd place out of 454 teams on the “Experienced Student Track.”

Photo of Rachelle Ankney
Rachelle Ankney

Rachelle Ankey was part of the high-scoring team. This fall is her second time completing the NCL-CTF course at Wright, and she attributes her current job as an information security analyst to both the class and competition. Previously a math teacher, Rachelle was encouraged to enroll in the course through a friend of a friend who knew she was looking for something new.

“Not only did the games give me more confidence when I was interviewing, but now that I’m working in the field, I’m able to use things I learned in the competition regularly,” Rachelle said.

Because the competition involves a new set of games each season, Rachelle decided to enroll in the course for a second time to further bolster her skill set. Based on her prior knowledge and her previous career as a teacher, she was able to help her instructor facilitate the class this time around.

“To me, serving as a class facilitator is a way to give back and pass along the gift that I feel the course gave me,” she said.

Instructor Chris Lemmon says her students come from a wide range of backgrounds and ability levels. They include career changers, those who have completed training but need to build hands-on experience, those who are new to the cyber industry, and alumni like Rachelle who are working in the industry and return to take the class multiple times.

With Lemmon and fellow instructor Ashley Templet as their coaches, Rachelle’s team got together in person for the three-day competition, which started at 8:00 a.m. on a Friday morning and lasted until 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. They were keeping an eye on their score throughout the weekend and were motivated by their high ranking and their ability to work together as a team.

“The game is essentially a complex and challenging test, and it’s so rewarding when you get something correct,” said Rachelle. “Knowing we were placing well nationally definitely gave us an adrenaline boost.”

Victor Cai, another student on Rachelle’s team, was Wright’s highest-scoring student in the individual games. He placed 75th out of nearly 8,000 participants in the “Standard Student Bracket,” earning a score in the top 1% of individual competitors.

The spring session of the NCL-CTF course begins on January 30, 2024. To learn more and apply, visit https://bootcamp.ccc.edu/ncl-ctf/.