Lubbock, TX (March 2020)

HackWesTX, a hackathon event run by Texas Tech University’s student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, took place over the weekend of March 7th. The event, which was held at the TTU Innovation Hub in Lubbock, TX, was sponsored by several companies local to Lubbock, including Group NIRE. Over the course of 24 hours, students were given the opportunity to work with a team to learn new programming tools program various hardware and software tools and compete in multiple challenges.

Timothy Sliwinski, Group NIRE’s Project Manager for Meteorology and Data Science said, “This event really allowed us to see how many promising, enthusiastic and creative young programmers are right here in Lubbock. I was happy to have been able to put together two great challenges for these students to try. It was a lot of fun talking with them about their ideas and what they learned.”

Group NIRE challenged the attendees to two projects which were geared towards getting students more informed about the future of cybersecurity threats and allowing them to gain hands-on experience with how cybercriminals think so they can one day help stop them. One challenge involved students taking control of a Wi-Fi-connected power outlet to pull information about how much power the device was using, while the other had them break into a real-world secured network to locate a specific server and collect data from it.

“The cybersecurity industry lacks the amount of professionals needed to really make an impact in the commercial environment. This lack is likely due to the stigma that the industry tends to drag along with it. Events like HackWesTX go a long way towards removing that stigma and introducing the computer systems community to “hacking” in the proper light,” Joshua MacFie, Principal Electronics Engineer, said.

Aside from getting students excited about the hackathon, Group NIRE encouraged them to sign up for the upcoming Wagner Peyser program that will be offered this Spring alongside Texas Tech University. The Wagner Peyser program also urges participants to be resilient when fighting cybersecurity threats.