Ivy Tech Students Place Second in National Cybersecurity Competition

VALPARAISO – Two students from Ivy Tech Community College’s Valparaiso campus, Raymond Cales and Eileen Peden, achieved second place at the 2020 U.S. Cyber Challenge National Cyber Bowl earlier this month.

Raymond Cales
Eileen Peden

The event, hosted by the Center for Internet Security, was one of the many events nationwide marking National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which takes place every October, is a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure all Americans have the resources they need to be safe and secure online.

“Through Professor Rami Salahieh’s undivided attention and dedication to his students, our Cybersecurity program in Valparaiso has become one of the best in the country,” Aco Sikoski, chancellor of Ivy Tech Valparaiso, said. “We are very grateful for his efforts that so clearly impact his students, who work hard throughout the year to participate in competitions like these.”

The Ivy Tech students were recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chief Information Officer, Karen Evans, at the AFFIRM/USCC 7th Annual Cybersecurity Summit Oct. 9.

Cales and Peden competed under the team name “Ctrl+alt+31337,” which is code for Control Alt Elite. Together they competed for 30 hours nonstop in capture the flag missions within various categories such as network analysis, cryptography, and reverse engineering. Two other Ivy Tech students also competed on a separate team.

“It felt great to be considered the best of the best,” Peden said. “The skills that you gained along the way definitely help you in future competitions and it improves your skill set.”

Cales and Peden were also recognized at a virtual Ivy Tech gathering on Oct. 16 where they were presented with certificates of achievement by Chancellor Sikoski and Professor Salahieh. Dr. Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech, also attended virtually to congratulate the students on their achievement.

“I’d just like to say thank you,” Cales said. “This is an incredible honor, and I’m thrilled to be able to bring something like this back to Ivy Tech.”

The students have been competing to participate in this Cyber Bowl event for more than a year. “In fall 2019 and spring 2020, you had to participate in the USCC challenge, where at least 10,000 others from all over the U.S. also competed to be in the Top 100,” Peden said. Those in the top 100 who were successful were invited to attend the cyber boot camp to train for the Cyber Bowl and participate in a job fair.

“Once Ivy Tech’s cyber security students graduate, they are able to enter into jobs like cybersecurity technicians, analysts or investigators in top national security industries such as Deloitte,” said Rami Salahieh, chair of Ivy Tech’s cybersecurity program. “Our students’ resumes also are received at the Department of Homeland Security for opportunities to apply for cybersecurity jobs there.” 

Cales expressed how he hopes to one day work in the aerospace industry. “NASA is kind of the big goal for me,” said Cales.

Peden, who is the chair of Women in Cybersecurity Valpo Chapter at Ivy Tech, plans to graduate next summer with degrees in Cybersecurity and Networking. “My hope is to pursue a career dealing with cyber warfare, cyberterrorism or to help prevent kids from disappearing due to child trafficking,” Peden said. “Women seem to be intimidated by a predominantly male career field. My advice to those women with an interest is to pursue it. Cybersecurity needs viewpoints and ideas not only from men but from women also. You are never too old to start another career despite what some may tell you.”

To learn more about Ivy Tech’s Cybersecurity program, visit ivytech.edu/cyber-security. More classes begin at Ivy Tech this January and will be offered face-to-face and virtually.


Ivy Tech Community College serves communities across Indiana, providing world-class education and driving economic transformation. It is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering high-value degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its communities, along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.