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Applications for the 2024 SE event are no longer being accepted.

All teams will be notified about the selection decision by early March, 2024.

Please note that we are aligning ourselves with NSF’s commitment to broadening participation, which is embedded in its Strategic Plan through a variety of investment priorities related to the Learning and Stewardship strategic outcome goals. Specifically, we are expanding efforts to broaden participation from underrepresented groups and diverse institutions across all geographical regions. This event and evaluation are considered research and are part of the education and outreach efforts of NSF Award # 2032292.


1. Do we have to be in the United States to compete?

No! You can be anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, you would not be eligible for the prize monies. But you still get to be in our Hall of Fame and gain the social engineering experience.

2. Do we have to be university students?

No! Students from high schools, 2-year, and 4-year institutions (undergraduate and graduate) can compete! However teams members must be at the same level. For instance, a team cannot have a mix of undergraduate and graduate students; it must be strictly be composed of undergraduates only or graduates only or high school only. The graduate team can have a mix of Masters and PhD students.

3. Can my school submit more than one team?

Yes! While multiple teams from the same institution can apply, only one will be selected per institution to compete. There is an exception. If there are not enough teams from different institutions to fill all available spots, multiple teams from a single institution may be accepted. Please note that there cannot be an overlap between the team members.

4. Can we create teams where members are from different schools?

Yes! However, one person can only be on one application (the same person cannot be part of multiple teams at the time of application). Also, teams from different institutions must still be at the same level (purely high school students or purely undergrad students or purely graduate students).

5. I am homeschooled. Can I still compete?

Yes! As long as you can put together a team (members may be homeschooled or go to another high school). A family member or a high school school teacher can serve as your advisor.

6. Are seniors who are graduating at the end of this spring quarter eligible to compete?

Yes! Seniors graduating from high schools, undergraduate and graduate programs are eligible and can compete in the summer after their last semester/year.

7. I’m not a computer science/engineering student and don’t know how to code or hack. Can me and my non-technical classmates still compete?

Yes! This experience is not structured as a hard science event. So please do not hesitate – do apply! Remember that this is about learning in a fun and safe environment, and that is the experience we are trying to provide students with!

8. Does each team member have to be registered as a full-time student?

Yes! Each team member must  be registered as a full-time student at the time of application.

9. What documentation can students provide to prove they are full-time?

Most universities and colleges offer students the ability to obtain an 'Enrollment Verification' document. An enrollment verification serves as proof that a student is enrolled for a particular semester as a full-time or part-time student. You should be able to download your individual copy through your institution's online student portal.

Students should get their respective enrollment verification document for the current Spring semester, which can then be included in the application document.

High school students can get a letter from their school principal or advisor confirming that they are enrolled full-time.

10. Who can be a team advisor/mentor?

The team advisor/mentor can be full-time faculty, full-time staff or full-time graduate student. Advisors/mentors who have part-time status (adjuncts, members from industry/government/nonprofit etc.) are not permitted. If you are a graduate student team, your advisor/mentor must be faculty or staff. This is to ensure that all competing students have an equal playing field and do not have an unfair advantage with an advisor/mentor who has industry/government/nonprofit experience. Each team can only have ONE advisor/mentor.

A single advisor can serve in that capacity for multiple teams.

If you are homeschooled, a family member or a high school teacher can serve as your team advisor/mentor.

11. I competed last year. Can I compete again?

As long as you didn't win first place in any of the previous events, yes! Your school can certainly assemble another team, but it cannot have any members from the winning (first place) team.

12. How will teams be chosen?

The review committee will look at applications that:

1. are complete (all components were successfully completed by all team members)
2. exhibit creativity, professionalism, and detail in their application
3. vary in team size (2-4 members)
4. reflect multiple disciplinary (not just technical) backgrounds
5. align with NSF’s commitment to broadening participation

13. How can I prepare?

Great question! We have a few resources for you:

1. Our curated list of SE resources as informed by subject matter experts.
2. 2024 SE competition orientation session (Theme: Employment and tax scams).
3. 2023 SE competition orientation session (Theme: Romance scams).
4. 2022 SE competition orientation session (Theme: Ransomware).
5. 2021 SE competition orientation session (Theme: Penetration testing).

14. What is the expected time commitment required by a team?

Once a team is selected, all members will be required to attend a 4-5 hour (might fluctuate a bit) training/orientation session. Our events are all virtual, and typically occur over 3-days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The time commitment for the competition will depend based on its structure.

15. Is the team required to attend the orientation/training session?

We've had teams ask us this before and we do expect all team members to attend. The orientation gives you insight into the competition structure. We also bring in subject matter experts who offer their insights (and perhaps useful hints/strategies) that you might end up using during the competition. Sometimes they do not want their talks to be recorded, in which case, your team would miss out on important information. 

We also ask teams to introduce themselves to everyone during orientation day. We often have members from our Advisory Board attend as they like to see the students who are competing. So it is ideal for the entire team to attend. If the entire team cannot be there, we ask that at least one person from your team be available to represent the team.

The exact time of the orientation will depend on the geographic distribution of the competing teams.

16. What can we expect during the competition? How is it structured?

Our events are all virtual, and typically occur over 3-days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The structure changes every year depending on the theme, but typically students are presented with a simulated situation that they must address/navigate over the three days. Past events have been structured as follows:

Day 1/Friday: Students are given preliminary information regarding current situation. Students typically speak with someone posing as the client/victim. They dissect and analyze information, and may conduct OSINT. At the end of Day 1, students have to share their initial findings and game plan for Day 2 of the event.

Day 2/Saturday: Students may have to interact again with the client/victim and the potential adversary. They once again dissect and analyze information, and may conduct OSINT. At the end of Day 2, students have to share their findings and game plan for Day 3 of the event. Students also have to provide a formal report and presentation for Day 3.

Day 3/Sunday: Students have to do a formal presentation (varies from 5-10 minutes) to the client/victim. There is also an informal debrief (not graded) where they can ask questions and get feedback on their performance over the three days (they are not given their scores!).

Students are graded across all three days on the quality of their deliverables as well as their live interactions with clients/victims/adversary. Please note that if a team misses any of the scheduled meetings, it is grounds for disqualification and it will not be able to continue in the competition.

Note that all meetings are recorded by the organizers (teams sign waivers for this). Teams are not allowed to record the meetings (so be sure to take notes during the meetings!).

17. What do we win?

The prizes change every year depending on budgets, sponsorships, and partnerships. Regardless, we will list the winning teams on this website and promote you via our social media accounts (@TU_CARE). But most importantly, you win by experiencing what it is like to do social engineering!

Check out the prizes for our 2024 event!

18. When will the winners be announced?

Winners will be announced at the closing ceremony, which varies based on the competitions dates every year. The date for the closing ceremony is listed on the website's home page.

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