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The theory is, take something that’s gravely serious, put a fun twist on it, then more people become eager to tackle the serious problem. That’s among the agenda items for a major conference in Huntsville next month.

The 9th National Cyber Summit will be at the Von Braun Center June 6-8, with myriad speakers and seminars, and hundreds of delegates visiting the city.

The constant threat to cyber security is “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges” faced by our country, according to Dr. Rodney Robertson, the summit chair.

Attracting a young workforce to that challenge will be an on-going priority for private and public entities. The Cyber Summit will do its part.

The “Cyber Cup” competition will be held on the final two days of the summit, with separate divisions for industry and student teams. Prizes will be awarded to industry winners and scholarship assistance will be awarded student winners.

“The Cyber Cup is about getting cyber skills out front, displayed, demystified and demonstrated,” says Cary Pool, a representative for the North Alabama Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association. “By putting scholarships and funding behind this, and providing a stage in the middle of the floor, we’re pulling cyber out of the shadows and showing people it’s worth the money to develop these skills. We need more people.”

Huntsville has been at the forefront of what is still a relatively new phenomenon. As Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says, “Nine years ago, there was not the cyber industry that exists today. Cyber was just hitting everybody’s radar.”

“We started building in our community cyber expertise through the Cyber Huntsville initiative, and bringing it into the schools and bringing a cyber Masters degree to our four-year schools,” Battle continues. “It all led to us being a center of excellence for cyber. From modest beginnings, we’ve grown to something extraordinary that can be compared to anywhere in the United States.”

Huntsville City Schools has a robust cyber program, and several of its teams participate in the national “Cyber Patriot” competition. A recent team from Grissom High produced students who were offered appointments to West Point and the Air Force Academy, and two other members earned internships at a local high-tech firm and did work that led to their filing a patent for an invention.

Mae Jemison High, with another strong cyber program, was the host earlier this week for a news conference announcing Cyber Summit.

“There are absolutely way more young people in the industry than there were 10 years ago,” Pool says. “I’ve watched the computer industry from plug-and-play and programming to people with math degrees to computer sciences and engineer. And now I’m seeing kids come out of college with cyber Masters degrees.”

The Cyber Cup is a “Capture The Flag” type competition. The two-man teams must penetrate a computer or take over a system to find the numerical “flag,” and they can take over the system to shut down the opposing team’s access.

Teams from across the country will be participating in both the industry and the student competitions, with qualifying rounds on June 7 that will set up the finals on June 8.

For more information or to register a team, visit the official conference website.