Teenagers dazzle Congressman Gaetz at Congressional App Challenge on UWF campus

November 18, 2017

Tate High School senior John Chamblee answers questions from Congressman Matt Gaetz and other judges about his app at the Congressional App Challenge on Nov. 18 in Building 4 of the UWF campus.
John Chamblee

Creative teenagers with a passion for STEM and cybersecurity ascended on the University of West Florida campus on Nov. 18 for the Congressional App Challenge.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz hosted the Challenge and STEM/Cybersecurity Expo in Building 4. This marked the first Congressional App Challenge in his district, and Gaetz said UWF deserved to be the host site.

“UWF has been the most nimble higher-education partner in Florida in our pivot to cybersecurity,” Gaetz said. “In every committee I’m in, we’re talking about cybersecurity because there’s no area where this is not impacted. The people who will come through these programs at the University of West Florida will have jobs unequivocally.”

Gaetz accompanied judges as they scored 10 apps submitted by students. Anthony Pinto, UWF Center for Cybersecurity CAE Faculty Fellow and Dr. Thomas Reichherzer, chair of the UWF Computer Science Department, served as judges.

Gaetz hosted an awards ceremony afterward at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts. Tate High School senior John Chamblee placed first with his stock investment trainer game app. Crestview High seniors Cody Morton and Dakota Waters placed second for their entry and Navarre High senior Jesse Hoskins finished third.

Chamblee said he plans to study cybersecurity at UWF next fall. He cited the opportunity to interact with industry professionals as the highlight of the day for him.

“That was the main reason for coming here,” Chamblee said before pulling out a stack of business cards from the pocket inside his suit jacket. “I wanted to talk to people from Navy Federal, Northrop Grumman and UWF Center for Cybersecurity.”

Students interacted with industry reps from Air Force Research Laboratory, Applied Research Associates Inc., AppRiver, Beat Code, Defensewerx, Global Business Solutions Inc., VetCX, Navy Federal and Northrop Grumman at the expo.

Students then heard from cybersecurity expert speakers at the awards ceremony. Cmdr. Chad Smith, Commanding Officer of Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station, Lt. Col. Raj Agrawal, Commander of the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, GBSI CEO and President Randy Ramos, Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, and Tony Ashe, manager in the Navy Federal Information Services Department, each shared their expertise on potential academic, military and professional opportunities in cybersecurity.

Gaetz cited the collaboration among academia, military and industry sectors at the Congressional App Challenge as an example of why Northwest Florida is primed to be the Cyber Coast.

“Every high-end cyber warrior in the Navy is going to come through Northwest Florida at Corry Station, and every high-end cyber warrior in the Air Force is going to engage in training at Hurlburt Field,” Gaetz said. “Our job as policymakers is not to export all of that talent. If we’re training them here and introducing Gulf Coast living, we want to make sure that we’ve got the jobs and the industries for those folks to ultimately come back to Northwest Florida and build businesses.”