Later this year, students from computer science classes at Sentinel High School will take part in a nationwide competition focusing on honing cybersecurity skills.
The two teams, each with five students and an alternate, will be competing in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, now in its eighth season.
“Their general goal with this is to create digitally aware and digitally smart citizens,” said Dave Hamilton, a math and computer science teacher at Sentinel.
The CyberPatriot competition is a part of the National Youth Cyber Education Program put on by the Air Force Association, a nonprofit group that promotes the United States Air Force and honors America’s airmen through advocacy about the country’s security and defense, as well as aerospace jobs and science, technology, education and math fields in school.
A team from Sentinel, including some of the students who will be taking part in CyberPatriot, competed as the only high school team in a cybersecurity competition called the Cyber Triathlon held at the University of Montana last year. They returned to the competition this year and ended up winning it.
Hamilton said some of his students have competed in other programming contests that have been held in Montana in past years. At a training session last summer, another teacher told him about CyberPatriot, and this spring he asked his students if they would be interested in trying it.
Exhibition rounds of the competition will be held each month through October. The first round of the actual competition will happen November and run through national qualifiers in March. Top finishing teams will earn all-expense-paid trips to the national CyberPatriot competition in Baltimore next spring.
Each round includes a challenge tasking the students with fixing security vulnerabilities in a computer operating system while still making sure the computer is fulfilling its services and functions.
“I don't know if we're going to get things together to be there for the exhibition rounds, but we'll get in it whenever we can,” Hamilton said.
Competitions like CyberPatriot are one way for the government to be able to find talented young cybersecurity people, and possibly recruit them.
“There’s not enough computer science people coming through the system to fill all of the jobs. This is one way for the government to say hey, you are pretty good, why don’t you come and work for us,” Hamilton said.