Austin Peay student one of 100 top finishers in Cyber FastTrack contest
(Posted Nov. 13, 2019)
An Austin Peay State University student is one of 100 nationwide to earn a full $22,000 scholarship for advanced cybersecurity training at the SANS Technology Institute next year.
Evan Ottinger earned the scholarship by solving more than 250 cybersecurity challenges over six months in the Cyber FastTrack contest. Hundreds of colleges from across the country and more than 13,000 students started the contest in April. By the end of September, only 100 students remained.
Thirty-three students from Austin Peay – the most from any Tennessee college and ninth-most in the country – made the quarterfinals. Two APSU students made the semifinals. Brett Daw won a $500 college scholarship for his efforts.
Ottinger is one of only five students in Tennessee to win the $22,000 scholarship.
“I feel as though Cyber FastTrack has validated my ability to succeed in the cybersecurity field,” Ottinger, a senior studying computer information systems, said. “While I still have much work to do, this accomplishment has given me the confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.”
‘These were serious challenges’
Ottinger attributes associate professor Dr. Joseph Elarde with introducing he and his classmates to the Cyber FastTrack contest last spring. More than 150 APSU students took part in the competition.
“I tried a couple of the assessments out of curiosity,” he said. “It became obvious rather quickly that despite the whimsical appearance, these were serious challenges. I decided to complete as many of the assessments as possible, ultimately finishing all 15. I was hooked.”
As he waited for the first-round results, he learned just how serious the competition was. Twenty-five state governors sponsored the event, which would award $2.5 million in scholarships to students who excelled in the contest.
“I spent much of April through September spending every waking minute I could find between work and class to complete the challenges,” Ottinger said. “It took a lot of time and effort, but I learned a lot and would definitely do it all over again.”
He excelled. Ottinger was the only student in the state to finish 100% in the opening round. He attributed his success to four things:
- “I think I did well because I made a conscious decision to do so,” he said. “I simply decided that I would finish every challenge.”
- “Early on, I found a small, like-minded community of fellow competitors. Many ‘ah-ha’ moments came from simply bouncing ideas off of other students.”
- “If you encounter a problem with technology, others have run into the same problem and figured out a way to solve it.”
- The quality of Austin Peay’s emerging cybersecurity program.
“I would definitely say that studying topics such as operating systems, programming, cryptography, secure software engineering and ethical hacking in-depth in the classroom gave me a leg up,” he said.
‘More Govs can win next year’
Ottinger expects to graduate in December, and he plans to begin the SANS Technology Institute undergraduate cybersecurity certificate program in January, earning industry-celebrated Global Information Assurance Certificates. Ottinger also will meet select employers for internships and employment opportunities.
Twenty-five state governors and the SANS Institute launched Cyber FastTrack as the first step in a national initiative to close the U.S. cybersecurity skills gap.
“As a student at Austin Peay, I hope that I was able to give something back to the university that I feel has given me so much,” Ottinger said. “I would really encourage students from all disciplines, but especially enrolled in our emerging cybersecurity program to register their interest in the spring (Cyber FastTrack) competition.
“It’s definitely possible for more Govs to win next year.”
To learn more
- For more about the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, go to www.apsu.edu/csci.
- For more about the Cyber FastTrack contest, go to www.cyber-fasttrack.org.
- For more about the SANS Technology Institute, go to www.sans.edu.
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