More than 100 students throughout Maryland and in North Carolina participated in an ethical hacking competition last week.

The capture the flag event on Saturday was sponsored by the Westminster-based Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory, Inc., known as MAGIC, and featured students cracking codes and solving cybersecurity puzzles. It was the fourth capture the flag for MAGIC, and the first to expand beyond the boundaries of Carroll County, with three satellite locations throughout Maryland and a group of students in Wilson, North Carolina, joining the competition digitally.


According to Amy Rupp, executive director with MAGIC, the expansion to the remote locations came about through a partnership with Maryland’s library programs, tying into their Maryland STEM Festival celebrations. In addition to Westminster and Wilson, students in Frederick, Bowie and Hagerstown joined the competition.

For the first time, two teams were able to solve all of the digital puzzles, including Daniel Cleaver, Jonathan Woodward and Joshua Woodward who competed in Westminster. Adam Boretos, Brandon Hertel and Christian Lowe also solved all puzzles while competing in Frederick.

Come July, the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory Inc. (MAGIC) will have a new executive director.

Robert Wack, MAGIC president, said this year was a huge expansion for the competition with word spreading through the communities about the event. He said these kinds of technological challenges are multipurposed, aiding both the participating students and the community as a whole.

“This is a low-commitment, low-risk way for them to dabble or dip their toe into cybersecurity to see if it’s something they’d like,” Wack said. “For MAGIC and the city of Westminster, it’s a way to create some development from an economic development perspective. We’re giving these kids beginner-level training in cybersecurity and raising the profile of Westminster as a tech leader.”

Wack said he hopes the tools the students learn and refine at the capture the flag event will translate into working skills to help them develop applications and products for larger markets than Westminster.

Rupp said the program is continuing to grow, and they are looking into expanding the satellite locations to the entire region or perhaps, in future years, the country. The next competition will take place April 21, 2018.