SIU ‘Security Dawgs’ taking aim at state cybersecurity title

Security Dawgs ready to compete: The SIU Security Dawgs will compete Saturday in the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. From left to right, front row: Jake Smith, Travis Hountondji, Belle Woodward, faculty advisor, and Travis Durbin. Middle row: Kyle Weise, Alex Zheng, and Alex Bryant. Back row: Vince Chelini, Logan Moses, Nolan Warner, and Matt Roy. (Photo provided)

The Southern Illinois University Carbondale ‘Security Dawgs’ will be looking to earn a second state title in three years Saturday when they compete in the annual Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

SIU will be one of 10 teams across the state competing. The competition mirrors what students will see in the corporate technology world. The Security Dawgs will join host John A. Logan College starting at 9 a.m. Eight other teams will compete Saturday at Moraine Valley Community College.

Teams work to keep their site secure from hackers and unwanted cyberattacks, and are responsible for system maintenance, upgrades, and completing other requests, such as installing or upgrading a website in the competition. Teams earn points based upon how successful they are at accomplishing the business tasks, in addition to identifying and stopping hacker attacks, and writing incident reports.

Ready for the event

In addition to their classroom work, the lessons learned through the Security Dawgs competition can be an integral component for students, said Belle Woodward, an associate professor in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies and faculty adviser.

She noted that preparing today’s graduates for the global job market requires several skills:

  • Technical skills
  • Collaborative work values
  • Communication skills

To compete successfully at competitions, students must think critically, collaborate and communicate with each other, Woodward said.

“Over the last four months I have witnessed this year’s group of Security Dawgs not only gain professional skills but valuable life skills, as well,” Woodward said. “They have rallied as a team during some very challenging events and come out as champions. I am happy with their progress and especially proud of each team member’s demonstrated commitment to learning.”

Team works well together

Travis Durbin, president of the Security Dawgs, a registered student organization, said the team is dedicated. The RSO is open to students in all majors.

“The commitment to maximizing ones learning potential over the past few months has been inspiring for our futures in the IT field,” he said. “What started as individuals quickly grew into a team competing for one another. The sky is the limit for the members of this team, and I am proud to say I played a part in the Security Dawg family.”

The Team 

Security Dawg team members are: 


  • Blue Island: Travis Hountondji, information systems technologies, senior
  • Crystal Lake: Vince Chelini, information systems technologies, senior, (alternate)
  • Fithian: Kyle Weise, information systems technologies, junior
  • Flora: Logan Moses, information systems technologies, senior
  • Mount Vernon: Matt Roy, information systems technologies, senior
  • Murphysboro: Alex Bryant, information systems technologies, senior
  • Oswego: Jake Smith, information systems technologies, freshman, (alternate)
  • Peoria: Alex Zheng, information systems technologies, senior
  • Schaumburg: Nolan Warner, information systems technologies, junior


  • Owensboro: Travis Durbin, information systems technologies, senior

Other teams in competition on Saturday are: John A. Logan College, College of Du Page, DePaul University, Governor’s State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Illinois State University, Lewis University, McKendree University, and Moraine Valley Community College.

The top team in the state will advance to the Midwest regional competition, March 13-14, at Moraine Valley Community College. There they will face the top teams from Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Second-place in the respective state competitions will compete for a wildcard slot on Feb. 29. The Midwest regional winner advances to the 13th annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition April 16-18.

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