Cracking the code to high school competition.
By By Tish Rourke, Vice President, Lockheed Martin Cyber & Intelligence
May 1, 2023

An introduction to this article appeared in the monthly Creating Connections newsletter put together by the women of The CyberWire. This is a guest-written article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, not necessarily the CyberWire, Inc.

Cracking the code to high school competition.

Lockheed Martin places great value on education in STEM and computer sciences through a myriad of outreach programs, scholarships and partnerships. One of my favorite outlets for this critical initiative is Code Quest®, an annual competition hosted by Lockheed Martin sites worldwide, and more specifically, my site in Annapolis Junction.

Students from high schools in the region come and join us for a computer programming competition. Teams of two to three students work together to solve problems by using JAVA, Python, C#, and/or C++ programming to complete the “quest.” They work on between 20 and 30 challenges, all created by our own Lockheed Martin engineers and computer programmers. This is an all-volunteer event, from the programmers to the facilitators on the ground day of. Our employees love giving back to and interacting with our local community through educational outreach and helping shape the next generation of engineers and programmers. 

I love that while the students work, we get to sit down with the coaches, who are teachers at the high schools, and talk about the challenges and successes in our school system, finding ways that we, as industry partners, can help shape and build the curriculum for STEM and computer science. We want to give our educators as many tools as possible to prepare their students with real-world knowledge and know what this career field requires in practical application. When I look at the students who come out to our events, I don’t see high school students; I see the next generation of Lockheed Martin engineers. I see the future of our national defense and the bright minds that will keep our country safe and ahead of our adversaries. I see my teammates of tomorrow. 

One win we took away this year on a personal note at Lockheed Martin was with one of our directors, Paul Rebasti. Paul is an incredible mentor to many of our employees and also takes the time to mentor youth groups, from athletics to academics. His daughter, Addison, became interested in coding and started a Girls Who Code chapter at her high school. Paul is very involved in helping the girls and supporting the group and was quite proud when, in the first year of the chapter’s existence, not one but two teams entered the Code Quest® competition this year. Addison was on one of those teams, so not only did Paul volunteer as the Executive Sponsor for this event, but he also got to watch his daughter in action. I’m not sure there is anything better than seeing the company you work for foster your child’s interests and future.

While Code Quest® is only one day, we don’t consider it a single touch-point effort. We also have Code Quest Academy, a STEM outreach program that pairs our Lockheed Martin employees with a high school classroom to provide at least four in-person or virtual mentoring sessions. We want to provide students, particularly those in under-served or underprivileged communities, with practical programming skills and career advice. This is another avenue we use to work with educators to ensure that real-world skills are hitting the classroom and to prepare them for participation in the Code Quest contest. 

In addition to our Code Quest® event, Lockheed Martin hosts CYBERQUEST®. This cloud-based competition includes problems created by Lockheed Martin cybersecurity engineers. The Capture the Flag (CTF) format includes multi-step intrusion scenario, steganography, reverse engineering, full OS hacks, packet capture, web exploits, social engineering, and cybersecurity awareness.