Use technology to share the voices of refugees, to engage volunteers in more meaningful ways, to map the human body at the cellular level, or to build a community of educators.

These challenges were set before 17 teams during the 10-hour AWS Hackathon for Good, held as part of the the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C.

Creative teams of hackers and coders battled to complete one of four challenges provided by the Virginia Cyber Range, National Institutes of Health, American Red Cross, and USA for UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency). These challenges required teams to learn new skills and build functioning prototypes to address challenges facing government, nonprofit, and education organizations.

An important part of the mission of the Virginia Cyber Range is to connect cybersecurity educators in Virginia and around the U.S. to build a community of like-minded faculty who can help each other succeed in the classroom. The Cyber Range challenge had hackathon participants creating a serverless, collaborative message board to facilitate communication between educators. This will aid the Virginia Cyber Range in its outreach mission and help foster communication among other online communities that want to leverage modern serverless design principles to improve security, increase scalability, and reduce costs.

“Five groups formed around our project and jumped into this all day, nonstop hackathon. Three of those teams saw the project to completion, and one team really knocked it out of the park,” said Thomas Weeks, technology futures and community advocacy director for Virginia Tech’s Division of Information Technology.

Winners were selected for each of the challenges based on their solution’s social impact and value, originality, feasibility, usability, engagement, and go-to-market strategy and promotion. The winning Virginia Cyber Range challenge team came from Enquizit, an IT solutions company based in McLean, Va.

lifesize #AWS letters and Public Sector Summit Washington DC signage
The AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C., brought together technologists from government, nonprofit, and educational institutions to connect, collaborate, and learn.

“They demonstrated their cloud coding prowess by delivering a serverless cloud forum tool that would allow Virginia educators to securely ask each other questions about tricks and tips for teaching cybersecurity in the classroom. This type of peer-to-peer interaction is critical as we scale up to support the majority of high schools in the state,” said Weeks. “We, along with the judges, were very impressed by the level of their cloud architecture and coding expertise."

AWS and Virginia Cyber Range began a strategic partnership in 2017 to support scalable cloud infrastructure and collaborate on cybersecurity educational efforts, helping to make Virginia a national resource for cybersecurity education.

“It is great to see AWS organizing events like these to help nonprofit organizations solve difficult problems.” said David Raymond, director of the Virginia Cyber Range. “It is especially encouraging to see such a large and diverse group of participants in the hackathon, willing to dive in and contribute their expertise. We were honored to participate."

members of Virginia Cyber Range at AWS hackathon event
Thomas Weeks, Maureen Lawrence-Kuether, and David Raymond of the Virginia Cyber Range were on site to answer questions and provide encouragement to teams working on their hackathon challenge.

The Virginia Cyber Range is operated by Virginia Tech and led by an executive committee representing 12 community colleges and universities within Virginia that are nationally recognized centers of academic excellence in cybersecurity. Thousands of educators and students in more than 200 high schools, community colleges, and universities across the state use the Virginia Cyber Range courseware and cloud-hosted exercise environment for hands-on cybersecurity training for students.