JOLT Hackathon Competitors Tackle Real-World Cyber Security Challenges

#JOLTHackathon Teaches 21st Century Skills

At noon on Saturday, competitors from all over Arkansas gathered together at The Venture Center to take part in a unique cyber security-themed Hackathon. A hackathon is a collaborative, 24-hour event where programmers and developers engage in intense computer programming to solve challenges.

JOLT is a capture the flag (CTF), non-stop, 24-hour cyber security competition that brought the best and brightest software developers, engineers, and tech students together for a “game of codes” that featured technical puzzles of increasing difficulty. The team with the most completed puzzles at the end of the 24 hours won.

The JOLT Hackathon was the first competition of its kind in Arkansas. The puzzles were created and deployed on the IBM Bluemix platform by students from UALR's Cyber Security Club as well as local technology professionals. The puzzle masters monitored the game as it unfolded, deploying additional puzzles and clues to make the experience truly responsive and providing a more engaging experience for the competitors.

It was an experience to see so many people come together and show their support for a growing tech community,” said JOLT puzzle-master, Andrew Lewis. “It’s nice to have it here in the heart of Arkansas."

JOLT was a nail-biter as exciting as any sporting event. Most of the competition, three or four of the teams jockeyed for first place on the digital scoreboard. At the end, it was “That One Team” from ASMSA and “Space Goats” a team of local professionals. By the narrowest margin, Space Goats claimed the first place spot and bragging rights as the winners of JOLT.

“I’m glad to see something like this taking place in Little Rock,” said game-master Brandon Gray. “This is the first competition like this that I can remember so I hope this grows into something grander. I’d love to see this competition at 300 people next year.”

JOLT Sharpens Hard and Soft Skills

Competitors honed their hard skills and developed soft skills like teamwork, collaboration, and communication as they worked in diverse teams.

No matter the skill level, everyone learned something over the 24-hour course of the Hackathon.

“My past experience was primarily in mainframe languages like Cobol. I was hesitant about working in the cloud, but I learned so much actually solved the first challenge for my team. It was a fantastic learning experience!”

- Alese Stroud, co-founder of Merger Match

“In order to build viable, scalable and investable companies we have to attract, develop and retain technical talent,” said Lee Watson, President and CEO at The Venture Center. “By leveraging cutting edge workforce development tools like gamification, programs like JOLT enhance the vibrant, growing technology community in Little Rock.”

This fast-paced competition represents the leading edge in the modern workforce development. Gamifying the learning process allows the participants to engage with experts and top technical mentors by simulating the “real world” experience which builds their confidence as they establish soft skills that will serve them even after they step out of the Hackathon.