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picoCTF 2018: a middle & high school cybersecurity competition

Raised toward our $10,000 Goal
162 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on May 01, at 11:59 PM EDT
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picoCTF 2018: a middle & high school cybersecurity competition


What is picoCTF?

picoCTF is a free, online cybersecurity competition for middle and high school students. During a two-week competition period, participants learn and apply cybersecurity skills to reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt or do whatever it takes to solve a series of challenges centered around a unique storyline. Similar to a game of "capture the flag" (hence the "CTF" in picoCTF), teams capture virtual "flags" and earn points.


Each year, Carnegie Mellon's 4-time DefCon "World Series of Hacking" champion hacking team, the Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP), develops the challenges for picoCTF to give students a real, authentic cybersecurity learning experience. Many members of PPP got their start in cybersecurity from playing picoCTF as high school students.


Running picoCTF year-to-year costs tens of thousands of dollars, to pay for the game development, problem development and hosting services. Our goal right now is to raise $10,000 in crowdfunding, which will help pay for a significant portion of this year’s competition. To keep picoCTF free-of-charge and keep it easy for kids to learn real-life cybersecurity skills, please consider donating today.


picoCTF is more than a game...

Right now, the number of cybersecurity job openings vastly outweighs the number of qualified candidates, leaving the technologies we rely on every day vulnerable to cyberattacks. Carnegie Mellon created this competition in 2013 to introduce students to the field of cybersecurity. By playing picoCTF, students can explore this burgeoning field in a safe, fun and competitive manner. 

“I think picoCTF is going to change lives here at Kealing! It has been a tremendous learning experience for all of us. What surprises and pleases me the most is the level of interest from the girls.”

- Anita Johnson, Teacher at Kealing Middle School in Austin, TX


Why contribute?

Less than 20 percent of high schools in the United States offer computer science or computer engineering education, despite how valuable these skills are today. By giving to picoCTF, you're giving middle and high school students access to invaluable education that they wouldn't receive otherwise. Any contribution to picoCTF is a contribution towards developing our future's cybersecurity experts.

“I competed in picoCTF on a whim with some friends for fun; we weren’t expecting to do very well. After the first day or so we were in the top 10 on the scoreboard. It was at that point that I realized: you know, maybe this is something we’re pretty good at. We ended up finishing in 3rd place, and that led me to study computer security in college.”

- Tim Becker, a high school senior who competed in picoCTF 2013. Tim is currently a fourth-year Computer Science major at CMU and captain of CMU’s four-time DefCon champion hacking team.


When will this competition be held?

The next picoCTF will be held in the Fall semester of 2018. Official dates will be announced in the coming months. 

To learn more, please visit, or check out our social media channels:


Choose a giving level



If every person who participated in picoCTF 2017 gave just $5, we would have everything we need to run picoCTF 2018.



If 400 people gave $25 towards picoCTF, we would have enough money to pay for the required services to host the game online.



If 200 people gave $100, we'd have enough money to pay for the game development (i.e. the storyline, the characters you see on the screen and the interface) for picoCTF 2018.



If you're capable of (and generous enough) to donate $250, we will be forever grateful. Your contribution will accelerate us towards our goal of raising $10,000, which will help cover a significant portion of running the competition.

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