Cybersecurity student rises to new heights
Radford University sophomore Kyle Higginbotham's high school teacher once assigned him extra work due to his speedy completion of class assignments.
Higginbotham, 18, thought of this to be busy work, until one evening after school he completed a school project for the first time on his own time.
Higginbotham’s teacher instructed him to compete in Radford University’s Capture The Flag (RUCTF) contest. This is when Higginbotham realized his passion.
“I was never the one to do homework outside of school but this quickly changed,” he said. “I was never challenged by any work and I thought most of it was easy, but not the Capture the Flag competition. There were problems that I would be stuck on for hours at a time but nothing would beat the joy of finally solving the problem.”
RUCTF, a five-week virtual contest, provides opportunities for high school and community college students to participate in cybersecurity challenges. The purpose is to educate, motivate and reward students interested in cybersecurity.
The contest challenges students in a wide variety of areas including anatomy of an attack, introduction to networking, cryptography, forensics, web security and Windows/Linux security. Scholarships are offered to all finalists based upon placement in the contest.
Higginbotham is on track to graduate in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and plans to apply to Radford’s Data and Information Management (DAIM) program shortly thereafter. After graduating with his master’s degree, Higginbotham desires to obtain a career with the government or a well-known business working with cybersecurity.
Higginbotham is a sophomore at Radford and is originally from Pembroke. His only experience with information technology before entering college was hardware information technology (IT), in which he took courses at New River Community College during his high school career.
Although spending time at the university and competing in the contest sparked his interest in IT, computers have always held Higginbotham’s attention.
“There was always something there that just clicked with me and technology. It was never hard for me to understand and learn how computers worked,” he said.
The college environment was easy for Higginbotham to adjust to with the help of his Radford University professors.
“Forming a relationship with some of the professors is one of the best things that happened to me," he said. "You can tell they want you to succeed and they will do their best to help you in any way they can.”
Higginbotham’s favorite aspect of the cybersecurity program is problem-solving. His explanation of why he chose Radford favored relationships with professors and the atmosphere of the campus.
“The class sizes are small so there is more of a student-teacher bond," he said. "You aren’t just a number at this university. The community is also very supportive, helpful and friendly.”