Second Round of LSU’s Code IT Up Challenge Launches with Fresh Levels

by Morgan Kastner

Do you have the computer skills to hack your way to an LSU scholarship? The second round of the College of Engineering’s Code IT Up Challenge is ready to put you to the test with several changes, including new levels that target additional skills.

The initial Code IT Up Challenge was launched in February after it was created by the team at NewAperio, a company led by LSU College of Engineering grad Logan Leger. The game’s “capture-the-flag” setup challenges participants to use various coding and hacking skills to find “flags” that serve as passwords to advance through multiple levels.

Points are earned by how fast a challenger finds the “flag” in each level. The top three scorers overall are rewarded with a one-time financial scholarship from the College of Engineering — $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second and $500 for third.

The second round of the game, with updates overseen by NewAperio’s Cody Rogers, launched Oct. 19 and will run through Nov. 30.

The Concept: ‘A Game Where You Hack Stuff'

The idea behind the game was to let would-be computer scientists test their skills and even improve them, with a format that would be intriguing and challenging.

"LSU wanted a new way to interact with high school seniors, an engaging, authentic experience that would show them what studying computer science here is all about,” Leger says. “We thought a lot about ways to do that, calling back upon our collective experience as graduates of the College of Engineering. We thought about what would interest us, and realized that was mostly gaming and hacking. So the Challenge was born out of the desire to learn more while also having fun."

The NewAperio team spent about a month creating the first version of the game, and it launched in February. It drew 182 participants from 22 states, with 15 clearing all 10 levels.

Taking It to the Next Level — Literally

Rogers said the first version of the game got plenty of positive feedback, but that “some levels were more difficult than their position in the game would indicate,” causing an issue where some players got stuck on lower levels that were too difficult for them. That led to some giving up sooner than they might have if things had been scaled better, he says.

Since the game is meant to teach and expand students’ skills, challengers who don’t finish don’t get the benefits of what they could have learned in future levels. The NewAperio team considered rearranging levels to address the issue and also adding new challenges — and they brainstormed a list of over two dozen potential new levels to incorporate.

The Result: More Challenges and Better Scaling

Rogers says the updated game for fall semester retains the capture-the-flag game concept, but now it has 15 levels — the 10 from the first version plus five new ones. Some of the previous levels have been moved around to deal with the difficulty-scaling issue.

The new levels expand upon previously introduced concepts from the last version of the game as well as introduce some fresh new concepts, he says. In the original levels students used skills such as Linux and SQL; the new ones explore aspects that include HTTP requests and scripting.

Rogers says the NewAperio team flexed its creative muscles to make levels that are enjoyable but also educational. “I'd like students to see that learning anything can be a fun and rewarding process if you add some creativity and purpose behind it,” he says.

Are you up for the challenge? Play the updated game.

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