Students defend against cyber attacks in new club

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Director of Educational Technology Brian Grantham

Middle schoolers get ready for theCyberPatriot competition.

Erin Goya, Staff Writer

Mid-Pacific students joined middle and high schoolers around the nation to inspire teens  towards careers in cybersecurity and STEM fields. 

Every year, students around the country participate in the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition where they are responsible for securing virtual networks. This program is called CyberPatriot. It was created by the United States Airforce to teach kids around the nation to defend America against cyber attacks.

The CyberPatriot club at Mid-Pacific was approved last year and used it as a learning year where they worked on developing the team and their strategies as a whole. This year, they are looking to be in the Platinum division and finish in round 2 to qualify for states, says club Advisor Brian Grantham.

“Every kid needs to know and understand coding and they need to understand how networks work because we are already solely dependent on it now,” said Grantham. 

The purpose of CyberPatriots is not only to teach kids how to defend against cyber attacks. It is also recruiting and educating the next generation of cyber professionals. 

“You’re put into the simulation of the network, you are trying to figure out problems in exchanging data through devices,” said Kimi Weng. Weng competes in the Packet Tracer division. This division teaches you how to troubleshoot and set up connections between devices. 

“We connect our computer to the server which is connected to the international cyberpatriot team and it is a competition that consists of 5,000 high school students at the same time,” said Seita Katayama who competes in the Litics division. 

This year, club advisor Grantham decided to change the way that the students learn the material. 

“This year because of the talent that we have in the kids, we decided to let out kids do the teaching,” says Grantham. 

“The beauty about it is that these kids have to know their information well enough to teach it to the younger kids or the inexperienced kids which gives them practice to get better,” says Grantham. 

The team practices and studies for long periods of time every day in order to prepare for the competitions. Most competitions run on the weekend for about 6 hours at a time. 

“We usually start at 2pm and end at 8pm and that whole time we are on the computer, and sometimes we get pizza breaks,” said Seita Katayama.

Hitoki Kidahashi studies on average 3 hours per-day learning the material so he can later teach it to the other members. “Right now, 3 is not enough. On average the winning team for US nationals they have been prepared for 3 years and study 4-5 hours a day,” said Kidahashi.

“It’s basically like test taking, we have to know our stuff,” said Katayama. 

The team competed in the CyberPatriot Invitational and ended up taking first in the tournament over the summer. It has grown from one high school team to two. The middle school team went from three kids to seven this past year and is expecting to field a second middle school team for the upcoming year. 

“I recommend this club to everyone even if you don’t know anything about computers, we will teach you from the very beginning  how a computer works or how to modify the system,” said Kidahashi. 

If you are interested in joining the CyberPatriots club and looking to compete against students around the nation, contact Brian Grantham at [email protected]

“The world is becoming so much more digital that if you don’t want to be told what to do, you’re going to have to have a baseline of knowledge and skills so you can figure it out for yourself. That is the biggest thing, learn how to be independent in the future and not rely on someone else to tell you what to do,” said Grantham.