CCI Involvement Since High School
B.S., Computer Science, 2023
When Luis was first introduced to coding in a middle school class, he hated it. But now, he is pursuing it as a career. He says that although he has always been interested in technology and engineering, it took practice and patience for him to warm up to the world of computer science. Luis is currently a second-year Computer Science student at Cal Poly and has been involved with the CCI since his freshman year.
Luis says that his biggest accomplishment during his time at the CCI has been his continued involvement in the California Cyber Innovation Challenge (CCIC). The CCIC is a cybersecurity competition for middle and high school students with the goal of engaging young people in the cybersecurity and technology fields. Luis had competed in the CCIC since his sophomore year of high school (that year winning Best New Team). Shortly after coming to Cal Poly, and because of his cybersecurity experience from the CCICs he took part in during high school, he attended a cybersecurity career fair. There, he recognized CCI team members from the CCIC and went up to say, “Hello.” After catching up, they asked for a resume and soon after, scheduled an interview for Luis to join the team developing the CCIC challenges that he had taken part in as a high school student.
He joined the two-person CCIC technical team to code the challenges for the students. He says that an important part of his job was writing code that teaches students that reading code is an important skill. He says many students begin coding just knowing how to write and read their own code but, in the workforce, you’ll be collaborating and relying on both your code’s readability and your skills to read others’ code. More specifically, Luis implemented an autopsy forensics challenge and created a satellite simulator. The satellite program simulated the ability to take a picture of space and displayed different measurements such as temperature, velocity, and voltage because Luis wanted to make it as realistic as possible. For the challenge, he added malware code to the satellite simulator that students could run to generate a “flag” for team points.
Outside of his work on the CCIC challenges, Luis is developing the Cal Poly Digital Transformation Club to help students get started learning programming or dive deeper into concepts like data science or web design. He is developing 10-20 minute challenges similar to the CCIC cybersecurity challenges but across a diverse range of introductory topics. The goal of the club is to lower the cost of entry for students to gain technical expertise and to bridge the gap between technical and nontechnical students by providing some education without a student having to choose to major in or commit to a technical field. Luis explained that having to take courses to learn the fundamentals of programming can turn students off from coding before they get to the fun part. He, fortunately, stuck with it and has both accomplished amazing projects, and found a career path he is passionate about, while creating the opportunity for more students to find the interest that he did.