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In preparation for the upcoming National CyberPatriot IX Competition, Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence (MWCCOE) hosted a MWCCOE HackSpace Competition for high school and middle school students Sept 10 at Maryville University and Sept 17 at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, IL.
The CyberPatriot Competition is at the center of CyberPatriot, a national youth cyber education program with programming for students from elementary school through high school. CyberPatriot was conceived by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.
The competition itself puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In multiple rounds of competition throughout fall and spring, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services. Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region, and the top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to Baltimore, MD for the National Finals Competition where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money.
Prepping for the Big Competition
During the recruitment events in September, over 70 high school and middle school students competed against one another in an effort to test and expand cybersecurity skills and awareness. Students learned about cryptography, network exploitation, packet analysis, programming, reverse engineering and steganography.
St. Louis’ first place winners were Malaya Hemphill, Jada Williams, LaQuanda Anderson, and Maliyah Gray from University City Senior High School. Belleville, IL first place winners were Zach Locke, Columbia High School, Jostin Hicks, Alton High School, Eric Upson, O’Fallon Township High School, and Antoine Watson, O’Fallon Township High School. Both teams won Raspberry Pi kits.
Maryville University and Southwestern Illinois College teamed up with MWCCOE to lead the way for local cybersecurity youth initiatives.
“Programs such as CyberPatriot are essential in exposing students to the STEM cyber security field. At Maryville University, we have partnered with the Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence to help expose students to the cyber field which has an incredible runway for growth,” said Associate Professor of Cyber Security at Maryville University, Dustin Loeffler, JD. “By investing in our youth to become next generation cyber professionals, this will allow our country to meet 21st century issues head on.”
“The success of the Hackspace competition at Southwestern Illinois College (and Maryville University) underscores both the tremendous interest among young people in this discipline and the need to educate future generations of IT security professionals for this growing career field,” said SWIC Dean of the Business Division Dr. Janet Fontenot. “We welcome the opportunity to host other cybersecurity events that will introduce students and the community to this vital occupation.”