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Spelman's Cyber Kunai Earns Award at Cyber Competition

In the dynamic realm of cyber security, Spelman College has emerged as a beacon of innovation and excellence, driven by the pioneering efforts of its Cyber Kunai team. This group of students, led by Raquel Hill, Ph.D., professor and chair of the computer and information sciences department, has embarked on a transformative journey to redefine the landscape of cyber policy and strategy.

Charting New Territories: Cyber Kunai's Inaugural Journey

 
At the Cyber 9/12 competition hosted by the University of Texas at Austin in January 2024, Cyber Kunai team members -- Brianna Bray, Ariel Jones, Aonika Parrish, Natoria Williams and Ericka James -- made history as Spelman's first-ever cyber team. Tasked with crafting policy recommendations for a simulated cyber crisis, the team navigated uncharted waters with determination and finesse. According to the Atlantic Council organizers, the Austin Challenge was the highest-scoring challenge to date and the Spelman team scored a three-way tie for Best Written Brief along with teams from the Air Force Air Command and Staff College and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 
 
Cyber Kunai 2024 Team Photo

Spelman's Cyber Kunai team was awarded “Best Written Brief” on Day 1 of the Austin Regional Cyber 9/12. Pictured from left to right: Ariel Jones, Aonika Parrish, Ericka James, Brianna Bray, Natoria Williams, and Raquel Hill, Ph.D. Photo Credit: Bob Daemmrich

 
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The unique competition focuses on cyber policy and strategy – areas I hadn't explored much previously. The experience was fascinating, requiring my team and I to develop policy recommendations for a fictional cyber incident. Exploring the complexities of cyber policy was eye-opening, and the challenges were truly rewarding. Throughout the competition, we had the opportunity to connect with remarkable individuals and network with government professionals actively involved in this field,” said Bray.

“Although the competition posed difficulties, the overall experience was thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to future opportunities to participate and further engage with the complexities of cyber policy and strategy, the computer science major added. 

A Legacy of Excellence: Shaping Future Cyber Leaders

 

In a testament to their resilience and expertise, Cyber Kunai advanced to the semi-finals and earned the coveted Award for Best Brief. Dr. Hill, the team's coach, emphasized the significance of this achievement in preparing future cyber leaders.

"In true Spelman form, Cyber Kunai prepared well and performed well. They advanced to the semi-finals and won the award for Best Brief. This award is significant because explaining a complex cyber incident and specifying a response strategy in a clear and concise manner requires skill – and this skill is rare," Dr. Hill remarked.

Empowering Tomorrow's Innovators: Spelman's Cyber Policy Program

 

Cyber Kunai's success is a testament to Spelman College's commitment to empowering students with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the digital age. With the recent award of $5 million to establish a Cyber Policy Program, led by the computer and information sciences and political science departments, Spelman continues to pave the way for future innovation in cyber security.

"I thought that it would be a great learning experience for Spelman students, especially those engaged in my Security and Privacy Lab, which is funded as a part of the Center for Distributed Confidential Computing, by the National Science Foundation," Dr. Hill expressed. "I am extremely proud of our team. They sacrificed winter break to prepare. Within a couple of weeks, they became experts on various governmental organizations and policies and their roles in responding to such incidents."

 

Large Blue Quote LeftThis was an amazing accomplishment. The team is looking forward to competing at the Cyber 9/12 National Competition in March," Dr. Hill said.
 

Meet The Cyber Kunai 2024 Team

 

Cyber Kunai History

 

During the spring 2023 semester, Spelman was awarded $5 million dollars to build a Cyber Policy Program that will be led by the Computer and Information Sciences and Political Science departments. Cyber Kunai is the College's first cyber team.


Learn More About the Grant

The team, who formed over the winter 2023 break with members Ariel Jones, Aonika Parrish, Natoria Williams, Ericka James and Brianna Bray, immediately began preparing for the competition.  They were required to submit at least two essays to qualify for the Cyber 9/12 Competition and on Dec. 5, 2023, the Atlantic Council notified Cyber Kunai that they had been selected to compete at the University of Texas at Austin. 

“Prior to the day of the first round of competition, I told the students that they were already winners, that I was extremely proud of them, and that anything they accomplished beyond being accepted to compete was icing on the cake,” Dr. Hill said.

“I am extremely proud of our team. They sacrificed winter break to prepare. Within a couple of weeks, they became experts on various governmental organizations and policies and their roles in responding to such incidents," Dr. Hill added. This was an amazing accomplishment. The team is looking forward to competing at the Cyber 9/12 National Competition in March.”

A Global Community: Connecting Students Across Continents

 

With over one thousand students from universities spanning the United States, Europe, Latin America, and beyond, the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge has cultivated a vibrant and interconnected community of cyber enthusiasts. From Central Asia to the Indo-Pacific, participants collaborate, learn and grow together, forging lasting connections that transcend geographical boundaries.

As the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge continues to evolve and expand its reach, it remains a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in addressing the complex cyber challenges of the 21st century. With each competition, the next generation of cyber leaders emerges, ready to confront the digital threats of tomorrow with skill, determination and resilience.


Learn More About the Challenge