Reinvigorating Interest in Technology: North East CyberFirst Girls Competition

03rd Apr 2024

Last month, RTC North had the distinct honour of hosting the esteemed National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) regional CyberFirst Girls competition for the very first time. Embracing a vision of inclusivity and empowerment, this event marked a pivotal moment in inspiring young minds across the North East region.

10 schools eagerly participated in this groundbreaking competition, showcasing the immense talent and potential of Year 8 girls in the realm of cybersecurity. Among these schools were esteemed institutions such as Royal Grammar School, Hexham Middle School, and King Priory School, to name a few. Notably, the dedication of these young participants was underscored by the commitment of one school, which travelled over an hour and a half to seize the opportunity to compete.

At its core, the CyberFirst Girls competition serves as a beacon of encouragement, aiming to ignite a passion for technology and cybersecurity among young women. Fostering teamwork and innovation, each team, comprised of up to four girls, undertook a series of exhilarating challenges encompassing cryptography, logic, artificial intelligence, and networking, all with the aspiration of clinching the title of regional champions.

The day commenced with a riveting keynote address by serial entrepreneur Kelly Whitfield, whose resilience and determination serve as a testament to overcoming adversity in the tech industry. Sharing her inspiring journey, Kelly imparted invaluable wisdom, reinforcing the message that opportunities abound for those who dare to pursue their dreams relentlessly. As one participant eloquently expressed, "Thank you for sharing your story. You really inspired us to continue in tech."

Throughout the event, teams were tasked with seven stimulating activities, including sessions delivered by the regional team and esteemed partners of the NCSC, such as Cyber Explorers and Cyber First national programs. Industry leaders, including representatives from Virgin Money, Waterston’s, Northumbria and Cleveland Police, and Atom Bank, lent their expertise, further enriching the experience. Additionally, Cyber Ambassadors from Cyber North and RTC North played a pivotal role as part of the judging panel, offering invaluable insights and guidance.

Highlighting the pinnacle of the competition was the unveiling of the "Enigma Challenge," ingeniously designed by teachers from King Priory School. Themed around World War II, this challenge encapsulated historical intrigue while fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills among the students.

In a nail-biting finale, the Valley Gardens Middle School's VGMS23 team emerged victorious, claiming the coveted trophy and each earning a brand-new laptop, courtesy of SAGE. As a token of recognition for their commendable efforts, all participating pupils were presented with certificates, celebrating their dedication and enthusiasm.

As we celebrate this momentous achievement, let us remember that our journey towards gender equality in technology has only just begun. In 2024, women comprise a mere 22% of all technology jobs—a statistic that underscores the urgent need to nurture and cultivate the talents of young women in STEM fields.

Together, let us break codes, forge friendships, and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future—one where every girl has the opportunity to shine in the world of technology.

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