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Competition Mission
The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is designed to offer students across a wide range of academic disciplines a better understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crisis and conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, the Student Challenge gives students interested in cyber conflict policy an opportunity to interact with expert mentors, judges, and cyber professionals, while developing valuable skills in policy analysis and presentation. Student teams will be challenged to respond to an evolving scenario involving a major cyberattack and analyze the threat it poses to state, military, and private sector interests. Teams will be judged based on the quality of their policy responses, their decision-making processes, and their oral presentation to a panel of judges. Along the way, teams will work with coaches at their home institution to develop their policy skills; feedback from expert panels of judges will ensure that all participants have an opportunity to improve their skills; and the collaborative environment will provide networking opportunities during the competition.

Importance of the Rules  
All participants must be familiar with the rules before participating in the event. Because teams will be evaluated based on a combination of written and oral tasks, a thorough understanding of the rules is important to success.



Rule 1. Format
Rule 2. Registration
Rule 3. Eligibility
Rule 4. Team Composition
Rule 5. Pre-competition Preparation
Rule 6. Team Selection and Notification
Rule 7. The Scenario Exercise
Rule 8. Structure
Rule 9: Permissible Assistance and Cheating
Rule 10. Judges
Rule 11. Observers, Media, and Broadcasting
Rule 12. Timekeeping
Rule 13. Team Evaluation and Scoring
Rule 14. Elimination
Rule 15. Prizes and Awards
Rule 16. Notification of Rule Changes 

Rule 1. Format

The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge consists of a cyber-attack scenario that evolves over the course of the exercise, prompting teams to modify their policy priorities and recommendations as part of successive oral presentations.

Qualifying Round — REPORT
Before the competition, teams will write a policy brief exploring the challenges faced by state, military, and industry actors related to the cyber incident described in the scenario materials. The brief must also recommend appropriate actions and policy responses for the actors involved. The length of the brief is limited to five single-sided pages in length. Further detailed instructions will be distributed to teams selected for the competition.

The qualifying round, held on day one, consists of 10 minute oral presentations, followed by 10 minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges.  At the conclusion of the round, teams will receive feedback from the judges who will score students based on their oral presentations. The judges’ score on the oral presentation will be combined with the team score from the more detailed written policy brief submitted in advance of the competition (see Rule 8 below).

Semi-Final Round — RESPOND
The semi-final round, held in the morning on day two, will give advancing teams the opportunity to respond to a new intelligence report that alters the original scenario. Teams will receive the new intelligence report, when advancing teams are announced at the conclusion of day one. The semi-final round consists of one 10 minute oral presentation, followed by 10 minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges.  Teams will have only little time to prepare and modify their policy priorities and recommendations.  Advancing teams will be decided based on the judges’ score on the oral presentation.

Final Round — REACT
The final round, held in the afternoon on day two, will involve a spontaneous reaction to an intelligence report that further alters the original scenario. Teams will have to respond to questions from the panel of judges with only little preparation, testing their ability to analyze information as a team and synthesize a response on the spot. Judges will deliver a final evaluation, and winners will be selected based on the final round scores.

Rule 2. Registration

To be considered for the competition, interested teams must submit all registration materials, including all team information, by the registration deadline. After all registration materials have been received, teams selected to compete will receive invitations and competition materials. Teams registering late may be considered at the discretion of the Competition Director, space permitting.

Rule 3. Eligibility

All students currently enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional, or law program on the date of the registration deadline are eligible to compete. There is no explicit major, coursework, or prior experience in cyber conflict necessary to compete, but successful applicants will have a strong link between cyber conflict policy and their current academic interest.

Students with an interest in cyber conflict policy from around the world are invited to apply to compete. However, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge cannot guarantee any funds to support team travel and accommodation expenses. Applicants are encouraged to inquire about funding from their home institutions.

Rule 4. Team Composition

Each team must include four students. Teams that register less than four competitors may be considered at the discretion of the Competition Director, space permitting. There are no requirements for team composition based on the majors or education level of team members. Each team must also recruit a faculty member to act as their team coach and mentor. While coaches are not required to take part in the competition event, their participation is necessary to ensure that all teams have access to assistance in crafting their responses.

Rule 5. Pre-competition Preparation

Background information on the competition scenario for the Qualifying Round will be distributed before the competition. This information will be distributed to all teams after participants have completed registration and selected teams have been notified. For the Qualifying Round of the scenario exercise (see Rule 7), teams will prepare both written and oral policy briefs based on a response to the initial scenario intelligence report. The written policy brief will be due prior to the competition event. The oral policy brief will be presented at the competition as part of the Qualifying Round and must be accompanied by a “decision document” handed to the judges at the beginning of the competition round (see Rule 8 below).  Teams are also required to find a faculty member to serve as coach who can help review and develop student policy briefs.

Rule 6. Team Selection and Notification

Teams will be selected based on registration materials submitted in accordance with Rule 3. Selected teams will be notified via e-mail of their invitation to the competition. Teams selected to participate will complete a supplementary information packet in advance of the competition.

Rule 7. The Scenario Exercise

The competition will focus on a single cyber-attack scenario described through various intelligence reports. The exercise encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security problems created by the evolving cyber attack scenario. At all stages of the competition, scenario information and tasks will be distributed in a manner that ensures all teams an equal chance to prepare.

Rule 8. Structure

The competition will focus on a single cyber-attack scenario described through various intelligence reports. The exercise encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security problems

Qualifying Round
Teams will be provided with a detailed scenario background packet that sets the scene for the fictional cyber-attack. This scenario will be focused on a state-supported cyber-attack against the United States or one of its Allies. Teams will also receive three tasks to prepare before the competition event.

  • Written Cyber Policy Brief
    • Teams will write a policy brief exploring the challenges faced by state, military, and industry actors related to the cyber incident described in the scenario materials. The brief must also recommend appropriate actions and policy responses for the actors involved. The brief is limited to five single-sided pages in length. 
  • Oral Cyber Policy Brief
    • Teams will be given 10 minutes to present their policy recommendations, followed by 10 minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges. Further detailed instructions will be distributed to teams selected for the competition.
  • Decision Document
    • Teams will also be required to submit a “decision document” accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the competition round.  The “decision document” will be a prepared form, two single-sided pages (one double-sided page) in length, outlining the team’s four policy response alternatives, decision process, and recommendations. Further detailed instructions will be distributed to teams selected for the competition.

Semi-Final Round
After the advancing teams are announced, participants will receive another intelligence report. This intelligence report will describe some change in, or escalation of, the original scenario and entail new problems for the actors involved.

  • Oral Cyber Policy Brief
    • Teams will be given 10 minutes to present their response regarding further changes to their policy recommendations, followed by 10 minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges.
  • Decision Document
    • Teams will also be required to submit a “decision document” accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the competition’s first round.  The “decision document” will be a prepared form, two single-sided pages (one double-sided page) in length, outlining the team’s decision process and recommendations.

Final Round
After the advancing teams are announced, participants will receive the final intelligence report detailing further changes to the scenario and will be provided with a very short amount of time to use the new information to revise their policy responses.

  • Oral Cyber Policy Brief
    • One at a time, each team will meet with a panel of judges. The teams will present a 10 minute presentation of their reaction regarding further changes to the scenario and their policy recommendations, followed by to 10 minutes of questions from the judges.

Rule 9. Permissible Assistance and Cheating

Before the competition, teams are encouraged to seek outside help to develop their policy briefs. Teams are expected to rely on their coaches in particular to help develop and revise their policy ideas for the competition.

During competition events, when teams are presenting or answering judge questions, no outside assistance is allowed for teams. However, teams may confer with their coaches during the breaks between rounds and stages.

Teams will not be allowed to use electronic devices such as cellular phones and computers during the competition events, when teams are presenting or answering judge questions. However, teams may use electronic devices such as cellular phones and computers during the breaks between rounds. Paper notes are highly encouraged at all times during the competition.

Cheating during the competition will not be tolerated and will result in the immediate disqualification of a team. All teams are expected to comply by the rigorous standards of academic honesty in place at their home institutions. Any team suspected of cheating may be subject to immediate disqualification. The home institutions of disqualified teams will also be notified of the disqualification.

Rule 10. Judges

Each round of the competition will be judged by a panel of three cyber policy experts. To standardize scoring and encourage consensus, all judges will score the teams based on a common grading scorecard in accordance with Rule 13. Judges may vary between sessions and rounds subject to their availability.

Rule 11. Observers, Media, and Broadcasting

A limited number of observers may be present at the event. Every effort will be taken to ensure that they do not disturb or assist any of the participating teams in the competition.

The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge reserves the right to partner with the media to provide live coverage of the event via broadcast or internet livestream. Additionally, members of the press may be present to cover the event in person. All participants in the event and observers in the event are expected to conduct themselves in a responsible and professional manner.

Rule 12. Timekeeping

Competition staff will manage a clock to keep track of time limits for the presentations. Teams will be kept advised of the time using a “green-yellow-red” system of cards. At the five-minute mark a staff member will display a green card to the team; at the one-minute mark a staff member will display a yellow card; and at the expiration of time, a staff member will display a red card. A penalty will be assessed for teams exceeding the time limit.

Rule 13. Team Evaluation and Scoring

All teams will be evaluated based on three main dimensions of their responses: evaluation of the scenario problem; analysis of policy response alternatives presented; and quality of writing or oral presentation. These dimensions will be scored based on a common grading scorecard and instructions shared by all the judges. The resulting numerical scores will be used to determine the winners of each round.

At the conclusion of each round, teams will be provided specific, detailed feedback on strengths and areas of improvement for their policy and presentation skills.

Grading scorecards and guidelines will be distributed to all teams in advance of the competition.

Rule 14. Elimination

In the event a team is eliminated, they are invited to participate in the rest of the competition as observers. Eliminated or not, all teams are welcome and encouraged to take part in the networking functions, speeches, and other events accompanying the event. Please note that eliminated teams are still eligible for some of the prizes and awards to be offered (see Rule 15).

Rule 15. Prizes and Awards

In addition to the main prize of the competition, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge will, at its discretion, award additional prizes for outstanding achievement during the course of the competition. The categories of prizes to be offered will be announced before the date of the competition. Teams will also be eligible for awards based on their final standing in the competition, and all teams will receive certificates in commemoration of their participation.

Rule 16. Notification of Rule Changes

The above rules are provided for planning purposes only. The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge reserves the right to alter the rules based on logistical and technical considerations. In the event of changes to the competition rules, a new version of this document will be posted and distributed to teams before the start of the competition.

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