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EPS Students Compete in Round 1 of Cyber Patriot Challenge

There are three cyber patriots roaming the halls at EPS--Senior Katelyn Copeland; Sophomore Hunter Reestman, and Freshman Adam Dreger.  These students particpated in Round 1 of Season IX of the CyberPatriot Compeition.  

CyberyPatriot (CP) is the Air Force Association's (AFA) National Youth Cyber Educaiton Program, created to motivate students towards careers in cybersecurity and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) disciplines.  

The AFA is a non-profit organization that has been concerned with national security for decades.  CyberPatriot started in 2009 as a pilot program with just eight teams from Florida.  The program has grown to over 3,300 teams in all 50 states, including a handful of school from Nebraska.  "As far as I can tell, Elgin is one of the only Class D schools competing from Nebraska this year," commented Sonia Rittscher, the CP sponsor.  "There are teams from Fremont, Lincoln, and the Omaha area.  I was introduced to the program on the recommendation from Dr. Wade Hurley and Professor Brad Vogt from Northeast Community College."

The AFA uses the CyberPatriot program to stress the importance of cybersecurity.  At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition 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 the rounds of competition, 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 in a six hour period.  So far, the team has worked with Microsoft 7 and Ubantu 14.04.  Team member, Hunter Reestman, stated, "I enjoy figuring out Windows because we use Windows in our daily lives."  

"The students really seem to enjoy the virtual machine challenge the most so far.  In our first round, the students scored 135 points out of a possible 200 points.  We're pretty proud about that!" stated Mrs. Rittscher.  Other parts of the competition include networking and packet tracer quizzes. "I learned that compuers can be tricky but you can learn a lot about them through CP," added Katie Copeland.  

The AFA lists several important selling points for beginning a CyberPatriot team at EPS.  For one, cyber careers are high-demand and high-paying, paying on average $12K/year more than other IT jobs.  There is also a growing need to keep America strong in cyber, creating a well-qualified cyber workforce.    

The next round of competition is in December with a qualifying round for nationals that follows in January.  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.

"This is our first experience with CyberPatriot program and competition.  There is a lot more learning to be done, not only for the team, but also for its sponsor and IT coordinator, Mr. Eric Mlinar.  There is so much to learn and to know, but we know more now!" remarked Mrs. Rittscher.  Adam Dreger added, "I didn't know how to do a lot of programming and other stuff, but I understand now."  It is a start!