Newswise — ​The U.S. Department of Energy’s CyberForce Program hosts competitions such as Conquer the Hill — Reign Edition to help the energy sector develop a pipeline of skilled cyber defenders who can counteract ever-evolving cyber threats.

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) announced that Cameron Whitehead from University of Central Florida is the winner of the CyberForce® Conquer the Hill — Reign Edition competition.

Whitehead was one of 100 competitors who traversed his way through server rooms, interacted with AI robots and decrypted secret messages to solve puzzles in a simulation of real world challenges that a national laboratory or secure energy facility might face if it underwent a malicious cyberattack. He was also the winner of the 2021 Conquer the Hill — Adventurer Edition Competition.

Conquer the Hill — Reign Edition is the second mini competition created by the CyberForce Program for individual competitors. The program also hosted the Adventurer Edition in July 2021; its CyberForce Competition®, which pits small, collaborative teams from colleges and universities against one another, will take place on Nov. 5.

Since its inception in 2016, the CyberForce Program has also grown to feature a monthly webinar series, a virtual career fair and an online workforce portal where students can evaluate cyber skills, check job boards and learn about upcoming events and training. These expansions demonstrate DOE’s support of the White House’s goal of building a pipeline of skilled cyber defenders to fill the nearly 500,000 currently-unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States. The program is led by Argonne.

“The CyberForce competitions, such as Conquer the Hill — Reign Edition, are ideal ways to engage and test the cyber skills of our country’s best and brightest students,” said Amanda Theel, Director of the CyberForce Program and group leader of Workforce Development in Argonne’s Strategic Security Sciences division. “Reign is a unique way for the Department of Energy and Argonne to interact with and develop our future workforce utilizing an engaging platform. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing the participants’ thoughts and feedback.”

In Conquer the Hill — Reign Edition, individuals used their wits and cunning to progress through rooms of increasing difficulty to ultimately unravel the truth. Participants were tested on their knowledge of cybersecurity, computer science, mathematics, cryptography and critical thinking skills.

“The CyberForce Program gives future cybersecurity talent the opportunity to engage with and learn from industry and national laboratory experts no matter where they live or where they are in their careers,” said CESER Director Puesh Kumar. “Competitions like the Reign Edition give the Department of Energy a front seat at innovating and developing the next generation of cybersecurity workers.”

Students’ next opportunity to compete will be in the CyberForce Program’s 2022 CyberForce Competition, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5. This year’s competition will be a hybrid in-person and virtual event, where participants will test their cyber defense skills in real time. The in-person portion of the event will be held at the Q Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Student teams can apply to compete until mid-September. Teams are reviewed on the completeness of their application, diversity of knowledge and the thoughtfulness of their makeup of their team. Competing is free.

All participating students are also invited to attend CyberForce’s Virtual Career Fair, which will be held on Oct. 12, 1 p.m. EST. This virtual event will be hosted on Brazen which will offer exhibitors the ability to customize booths, have multiple representatives, post jobs/internships and ask questions prior to speaking with any participants.

CyberForce® began as a cyber defense competition in 2016 with eight competing teams. It grew to more than 100 teams in 2019, and added virtual participation as an option in 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the CyberForce Program offers many opportunities for the next generation of cyber professionals to advance their cyber skills. To learn more, visit