Mashable has a great little article that talks about the mature and growing trend of information security competitions. The beauty of these competitions is that they typically have both offensive and defensive elements. The offensive side plays the "capture the flag", abbreviated as CTF in the infosec culture, by trying to break in to systems and networks and discover bits of clues that lead to the grand prize. This is a penetration testing competition, primarily. They serve as the "red team". This is how the the competition in the article worked.
More sophisticated competitions have also a "blue team" that provides defensive, detective capabilities, that will also trying to block the penetration testers and keep systems up and running.
It is a ton of fun, and a challenge for everyone involved.
Mashable: Competition Seeks Next Generation of Cybersecurity Experts