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CCI announces Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge winners

April 17, 2023

Teams from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Military Institute see inventions move closer to market.

Winning teams from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Military Institute have begun the final commercialization phase of the Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) announced last week at the annual CCI Symposium. 

“Bringing research out of the lab and into the marketplace is a key part of CCI’s goal to contribute to the Virginia economy and help make the state a leader in cybersecurity,” said CCI Executive Director Luiz DaSilva. “I’m delighted to announce ElectroDefense and Network Sense are moving to the final commercialization phase of the challenge. It’s especially exciting that Network Sense has incorporated, adding to the roster of CCI spinouts.” 

CCI partnered with US Ignite to launch a gated, four-phase innovation challenge in May 2021. The challenge began with six teams in 2021 with the ideation phase, moving through subsequent stages including prototyping, development and finally, commercialization.

“The Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge was created to guide researchers through the commercialization process, focusing on helping them turn their innovative ideas into successful products,” said Domenick Lasorsa, community innovation manager with US Ignite.

“We provide the winning teams with access to expert guidance and resources and help them refine their prototypes and accelerate their path to market. We are thrilled to have worked with such talented researchers and look forward to seeing the impact of their solutions on the cybersecurity industry.”

The winning teams include:

Network Sense LLC (incorporated April 2023)

Virginia Military Institute

Luiz DaSilva  executive director commonwealth cyber initiative, presents award to VMI team on stage at CCI Symposium
CCI Executive Director Luiz DaSilva, left, presents VMI’s Network Sense team with the CCI Innovation Award at the CCI Symposium. Team members include Assistant Professor Sherif Abdelhamid, Computer Science, center, and Computer Science major Kolby Quigg. Not pictured: Tanner Mallari, 2022 computer science graduate. Photo by Joe Mahoney for CCI
Team members:
  • Sherif Abdelhamid, assistant professor, computer science
  • Tanner Mallari, computer science graduate, 2022
  • Kolby Quigg, computer science major, graduating 2024

Network Sense offers a web-based modeling and analytical environment for running network dynamics and predicting the spread of malicious behaviors and computer viruses on communication networks. Network Sense comes with a portal that hosts learning resources and educational materials.

The company plans to offer packages with different combinations of their product’s features to customers in 5G network security. The Market Research Future, a leading research firm, estimates that the global revenue of the 5G security market will reach more than half a billion dollars by 2026.


Virginia Commonwealth University

Three people work on a project in a lab
Virginia Commonwealth’s ElectroDefense team includes, from left, Assistant Professor Radhika Barua, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Mechanical Engineering major Rodney Davis, and Electrical Engineering major Mac Salter.
Team Members: 
  • Radhika Barua, assistant professor, mechanical and nuclear engineering
  • Rodney Davis, mechanical engineering with a minor in general business and mathematics, graduating 2025
  • Mac Salter, electrical engineering, senior

This team created a multifunctional coating that can provide high-frequency electromagnetic radiation shielding and passive thermal management to prevent electromagnetic sabotage of wireless components. 

ElectroDefense plans to generate revenue by licensing the technology to companies in the IoT field. Over the long term, the solution can potentially have an impact on every network-connected device (IoT) — a market that Cisco estimates to be worth $14 trillion in 2022.

Spurring entrepreneurship

The challenge provided the winning teams with new ways of looking at bringing the products of research to market. 

Developing a physical coating to protect devices offered research challenges combined with entrepreneurial lessons for the team’s lead faculty member and students.

“We learned it takes a lot to go from an idea to a product that passes quality control,” Barua said. “I have definitely learned about how to go through all the stages. We now know the concept works.”   

Abdelhamid was a new computer science assistant professor at VMI when he began working with two undergraduate students — Tanner Mallari and Kolby Quigg — to find a gap in the market that they could fill with a product based on their research. 5G and NextG networks are getting smarter thanks to deep learning and artificial intelligence and need a smarter tool to sniff out malicious behavior and viruses. 

US Ignite helped guide the VMI team from the idea phase to developing a product to sell. “As a faculty member, I didn’t learn any of this at school,” Abdelhamid said. 

Network Sense incorporated in April 2023. The team received the CCI 2023 Innovation Award at the CCI Symposium the same month. It’s just the start for Abdelhamid.

“This will not be the last time for us to build a product,” he said.

For more information, contact CCI Communications Director Michele McDonald at