The national Fall 2017 NCL champion Baldwin Wallace University Cyber Defense Team

The student computer security team outranked 174 teams nationally across all brackets to earn 1st place.

Baldwin Wallace Cyber Defense Team tops National Cyber League 2017 Fall Season

December 4, 2017

The national Fall 2017 NCL champion Baldwin Wallace University Cyber Defense Team

The Baldwin Wallace University Cyber Defense Team is number one in the country after the dust settled and the points were tallied in the National Cyber League (NCL) 2017 Fall Season competition. The team, dubbing itself "Ken’s Little Pwnies" for faculty advisor Kenneth Atchinson, fought to the top of the NCL leaderboard outranking 174 teams nationally across all brackets.

The NCL is a computer/network security competition that challenges participants to break encryption, analyze network security, break into websites and much more.Photo of Ian Walton

"We enjoy a team dynamic that is so conducive to our success," said Jonathan Cartwright '16, a computer network security alumnus and current business graduate student from Cleveland. "I think it speaks volumes that we come together to compete in the same room rather than utilize the ability to compete on this team remotely."

In addition to the team win, Ian Walton '20, a software engineering major from Berea, Ohio, notched a third place finish overall in the NCL Regular Season individual competition with 2,423 participants held earlier in the month.

Teamwork and individual strengths

BW's national championship cyber defense team at workAtchinson says the intense weekend competition which started on a Friday at noon and ended Sunday at 9 p.m. forced students to grapple with a series of complex tasks and challenges to test their skills. 

"I monitored the chatroom and found them working most of the night and even into the early morning on problems," Atchinson reports. "Needless to say, they worked really hard and put in lots of hours on solving the problems. They worked on problems best suited to their talents, and worked as a team, educating each other on the best methods and approaches."

Team captain Meredith Kasper '20, a computer network security major from Parma, Ohio, noted, "One of our greatest moments was the last 10 minutes…[when] we were scrambling to get five more points. We submitted answers between 8:57 and 8:59. Luckily, they were correct and we saw our team move into first place. I could not be prouder of my team if I tried after the amazing teamwork everyone displayed throughout the weekend."

Kasper also says the NCL competitions helped her to land a job as a security operations center analyst by giving her practical experience that would be difficult to obtain elsewhere.

Winning Cyber Warriors

In addition to Cartwright, Walton and Kasper, the team was comprised of John Blainer '18, a computer network security and computer information systems major from Lakewood, Ohio; Dan Jesensky '18, a software engineering, computer network security and computer information systems major from North Royalton, Ohio; Andrew Wilhelm '18, a computer network security major from Brooklyn, Ohio; Kurt Wolfe '18, a computer network security major from Cleveland; and Emory Leinweber '21, a computer network security major from Ottawa Hills, Ohio.

BW's previous best finish, in spring 2017, was 5th place overall and first place in the silver bracket.