Hack with Turku’s Journey

Sharpening the hacking skills in a fun and constructive way

One day at my favourite English class at University of Turku (UTU), I started to share my thoughts about cybersecurity and my adventures seeking for an internship. The class was highly interactive, and my colleague Jani Voutilainen started to share his thoughts about Smart and Wise, and how this project is shaping the future of Turku. Immediately, the whole view resonated in my head.

We continued the conversion at City of Turku, and together with the city’s representative we shared our thoughts again, and as one idea leads to another, we started to discuss about a crazy initiative at Kerttuli’s High School. Almost synchronized, from the Kerttuli’s corridors emerged the will to explore hacking as a new elective course. The Kerttuli’s vice president of the ICT special track, Juho Airola, challenged the City of Turku to execute the course.

The mission was clear, designing and building a new experience for the students over an unusual terrain for us, a teenager’s territory. As fast as I could, I introduced the idea to professor Seppo Virtanen from UTU, and gladly we all accepted the challenge. In February 2019, the call for joining this new course received 40 applications confirming the enthusiasm at Kerttuli. The whole journey lasted about 10 weeks, and we selected 20 students to start. The course was called Hack with Turku in honour to the pioneer initiative Hack with Espoo organized by City of Espoo, they did the first call to general schools in 2018.

Despite the naming similarity, the Hack with Turku teaching and learning differs from the Espoo significantly. Most of our students already had an existing ICT background that allowed us to introduce a progressive learning context over a cloud–based environment that we designed and built specially for them. By breaking down the number of students, the proportion of the ICT track students were 85%, while general school students reached 15%. During the closing day, all the students were recognized for their committed and motivated participation that impressed all of us. Also, the top five students were awarded by our sponsor Lähitapiola, being invited to the Hack Day 2019, which is a national hacking contest, where they can keep sharpening their skills in a fun and constructive way.

Read more in Finnish: Hack with Turku – valkohattuhakkeroijat opettelevat kyberturvallisuutta


I urge my colleagues to hire international students. It changes the working culture and speaking another language daily keeps your brain sharp. Beri was able to execute the project by herself, I was only supporting on daily tasks like who to contact. I want to emphasize that she was a gold nugget. She already had one master’s degree and PMP certification, so we truly got a senior specialist rather than a trainee. So, my dear colleagues, I highly recommend keeping your eyes open for international students and possible internships for them.

Jani Voutilainen, a project manager at the security and risk management department for the Smart and Wise project

Berioska Contreras Vargas

Tietoa kirjoittajasta

Contreras Vargas
Berioska Contreras Vargas is a Chilean student doing her double degree in cybersecurity at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) starting her studies at the University of Trento in Italy and finalizing at the University of Turku in Finland. She has been a cybersecurity intern (from 14.01.2019 till 13.6.2019.) in security and risk management department doing tasks under Smart and Wise – project.