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Research / Discovery

Looking for a few good students to play the "Grid Game"

July 24
Kortny Rolston

Colorado State University and the other organizers of the upcoming Resilience Week conference are recruiting students to play a new game based on the nation's electric grid.

Wanted: Students to operate their own power grids and protect them from cyber attacks as part of a new competition called the “Grid Game.”

The multi-player game debuts on Aug. 20 at the Resilience Week 2014 conference in Denver.

The conference, which is organized by Colorado State University, Idaho National Laboratory and others, focuses on research and ideas to improve the nation’s electric, transportation and other infrastructures so they can better withstand natural and man-made threats. 

“We need teams of college students to participate in the Grid Game,” said Indrajit Ray, a CSU professor of computer science and conference contributor. “This is an ideal event for engineering and computer science students. They will learn how to manage and protect their own microgrids.”

Adding a cyber threat

The Grid Game was developed by Tim McJunkin, an INL researcher, as a way to teach college students enrolled in engineering and energy technician courses how the nation’s complex electric grid operates.

McJunkin asked Ray and CSU’s HashDump student cybersecurity club to expand the game so multiple people can play at one time and to incorporate a cyber threat to make it more realistic.

Hackers have used cyber attacks to cripple the control systems used to operate power plants, distribution lines and other critical elements of the electric grid and disrupt the flow of electricity to consumers.

“Cyber attacks are a big threat to the nation’s electrical infrastructure,” Ray said. “Players will come out appreciating the importance of the cyber health of the control system.”

How the game is played

Next month’s event will mark the first time the Grid Game will be played outside of a classroom and by players competing against one another.

During the first phase, players learn to keep the grid at a steady 60 cycles per second and to balance demand for power with supply. During the second phase, players buy and sell power from one another and protect their microgrids from a potential cyber threat.

“Balancing the grid and all of its demands and resources can seem extremely complicated. The Grid Game allows players to learn about the systems that provide consistent power to homes and businesses,” McJunkin said.

The University of Denver, Idaho State University and the Idaho Regional Optical Network also are helping with aspects of the game.

To register for the Grid Game, email tim@mcjunkin-web.orgor indrajit@cs.colostate.edu