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CyberPatriot Competition Kicks-Off with a Bright Start

The sixth season of the National CyberPatriot Competition kicked off back in November, and the National Finals are coming up: March 26th -- 29th. Conceived by the Air Force Association, CyberPatriot is a premier Internet defense competition designed to excite, educate, and motivate the next generation of network defenders, which are critical to our nation’s security. It is the largest high school cyber defense competition in the United States, with two divisions:

  • Open Division -- Open to an accredited public or private institutions, registered home school associations, and community organizations like the Boy Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
  • All Service Division -- Open to students in Junior ROTC programs, Civil Air Patrol squadrons, and Naval Sea Cadet units.

This competition encourages the nation’s youth to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with a particular focus on future career opportunities. To ensure widespread access to CyberPatriot participation, preliminary rounds of the competition are conducted online from the teams’ home locations.

As America increasingly depends on Internet systems to fuel the economy, drive public safety, operate industries, educate students and support national defense, it is vital to develop a workforce that is prepared to protect and defend our nation’s networks and critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. CyberPatriot offers schools a way to motivate high school youth in a way that is not only fun and educational, but also builds awareness of cybersecurity issues. It also helps address the declining number of students who pursue degrees in the STEM discipline, which can result in a serious worker shortage as the number of STEM jobs increases. Furthermore, this competition elevates the academic reputation and the visibility of the school within the community.

Please consider taking action and being part of protecting tomorrow’s infrastructure, starting today. The program always needs more companies to get involved as sponsors, and individuals who can volunteer as mentors.

Cisco’s role

For the first time, CyberPatriot has included a networking security component in the semi-final round of the competition. 106 teams were presented with a broad range of challenges, from something as simple as setting an IP address, to more complex tasks such as establishing ACLs to control network traffic across the fictitious competition infrastructure (Branch/HQ network simulation).

At that National Finals later this month, the teams will be challenged with another network security simulation orchestrated by a team of seven Cisco engineers, and led by Systems Engineer, Steve Gyurindak, who will be onsite in National Harbor.

A Fantastic Mentoring Opportunity

In order to support the Semi-Finals and the upcoming National Finals Competitions, a team of more than 50 Cisco employee volunteers have stepped up to participate. While Steve and his team were busy designing the actual Semi-Final and National Final completion challenges, Cisco Systems Engineer, Ray Aragon, coordinated the efforts of the Cisco team mentors who were involved in providing Cisco Network Academy Training directly to the schools.  To do this, Ray established a CyberPatriot “train the trainer” boot camp for the 40+ Cisco volunteers, establishing a common baseline understanding of the CyberPatriot competition and educational needs. With help from Senior Manager in Corporate Affairs, Joni Blakeslee, the volunteers leveraged Cisco Networking Academy curriculum and the Packet Tracer tool to educate students about Cisco Networking fundamentals.

In addition to supporting CyberPatriot Networking competition, Cisco will also build and operate the competition network, which the entire competition will run on during National Finals.

Everyone Wins

As the cybersecurity workforce of the future is built, every sector of our nation becomes stronger, safer, and more secure. And when our nation is stronger, safer, and more secure, our tomorrows are too. As the projects become increasingly complex, both students and mentors devise new, creative solutions to inspect and tackle every possible threat. Engagement in this program has demonstrated that our future cybersecurity workforce is bright, energized, and ready to meet the future challenges of our industry.

Good luck to all the competitors and a sincere thank you to all of the volunteers who have come together to make this year’s program a success.

Visit the CyberPatriot site (http://www.uscyberpatriot.org/) for more information and the schedule; and follow @CiscoFederal on Twitter for live updates.

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