One of the best things about working on the CyberFirst Girls Competition is seeing the wonderful talent, passion and dedication on show from the competing teams. Whether it's in the earlier stages or at the final itself, it is brilliant to see so many young girls enjoying the challenges of cyber security.
The 2018 competition drew to its conclusion last month and despite the troublesome 'Beast from the East' causing both weather and travel issues, all 40 girls - accompanied by their teachers and guardians - arrived in Manchester to compete in the 2018 final. And what a final it was!
Winding the clock back to January, the online round of the competition attracted 4,500 girls aged 12-13 years from schools right across the UK. After 7 days of furious problem solving and code cracking, over 220,000 answers were submitted and all but 14 of the 170 challenges had been answered. Fast-forward to the 18th March and the top ten teams arrived in Manchester to test their teamwork and ingenuity in the grand final.
The weekend began with a private tour of the BBC studios in Media City, where the teams took turns to present the news on the famous red sofa. After a quick turnaround at the hotel, the girls were treated to a welcome dinner in the wonderful surroundings of Manchester Museum, helping them to relax and enjoy the experience ahead of the final the next morning.
The day of the competition arrived with the teams arriving at Lancashire County Cricket Ground, Emirates Old Trafford in bright, cold and blustery conditions. The members area had been transformed into a competition venue with breakout areas, video screens, laptops, mood lighting and gadgets everywhere. Following a detailed brief, the competition was underway!
Throughout the day, the leaderboard constantly changed as the girls got to grips with a multitude of fiendishly difficult challenges where teamwork, ingenuity and lateral thinking were key skills for success. The girls were visibly lifted by the arrival of BBC business correspondent, Steph McGovern. As a former young Engineer of the Year, Steph was the perfect guest to inspire the girls to greater heights, not just with the competition but also as a visible female role model.
Our winners, 'The Computifuls' of The Piggott School in Reading, were overjoyed to be top of the leaderboard as the final drew to a close but the prize-giving was a special moment for all involved. As well as the usual CyberFirst goody bags and laptops for the winning team, all the girls received a ‘save the date’ from HRH the Duke of York, to join him for afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace.
His Royal Highness welcomed the girls to Buckingham Palce - a stunning setting to celebrate all that they had achieved during this year's competition. For our teams it was a memory that they will cherish and something which I hope will continue to nurture their passion for cyber security.
CyberFirst Skills & Growth
*don't forget to check out our CyberFirst Girls Competition gallery!