UNM-LA: Free Cyber-Puzzles Workshop For Girls

UNM-LA News:

Girls entering grades 7-11 in fall 2018 are invited to participate in a no-cost day-long computer security learning event at UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA).

The event, called Queen Of The Hill (QOTH) meets 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 16. QOTH is organized by Neale Pickett, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Pickett has been teaching computer security defense techniques at the middle-school and high-school level since 2010. For QOTH, he works with a group of computer security professionals using the moniker “The Dirtbags” who provide software and run training and contests, focused primarily on forensic incident response.

Students participating in QOTH will be introduced to the basics of computer security. By overviewing methods of coding, students learn to create more secure programs. Most of the instructors are employed as security incident responders, less formally called computer crime detectives. QOTH provides a safe and legal environment for students to learn and practice these techniques.


The QOTH event is structured as a self-paced set of puzzles, presented as a game. Student teams work through the puzzles, which increase in complexity as they progress, building upon previous concepts. As students work, instructors circulate, providing hints and assistance.

According to the national nonprofit organization “Girls Who Code,” in 1984, 37 percent of all computer science graduates were women; today just 18 percent are women. There will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields by the year 2020. While US graduates are on track to fill 29 percent of those jobs, women are on track to fill just 3 percent. (Retrieved from https://girlswhocode.com/about-us/. Accessed May 15, 2017.)

In 2015, The Dirtbags added this “all-girls” event to provide an environment for young women to try their hand at computer security in a challenging supportive setting. The students work at their own pace, and learn by trial and error. Pickett and his team hope that some of the participants will recognize their aptitude for computer work, and consider pursuing further education.

Registration for QOTH is online at http://qoth.net/. To learn more about programs offered at UNM-LA visit http://losalamos.unm.edu or call 505.662.5919.