WIESBADEN, Germany – As cyber continues to dominate new technologies adapted by the Department of Defense, the need to focus on future forces cyber expertise shows the need to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) efforts in our schools, and that is why members of the 2d Theater Signal Brigade (TSB), Wiesbaden, Germany, went out of their way to ensure students of Wiesbaden High School (WHS) were able to participate, for the first-time ever, in the Air Force Association’s U.S. CyberPatriot competition, as the school fielded two six-member teams, CyberAvengers team and CyberDefenders team, and competed against 2,130 U.S. high schools across the globe in the first round, Nov. 13.
The 2d TSB established the Cyber Patriot program at WHS in October 2019 and provided the primary coach for both teams. There was no program at WHS until the 2d TSB established it.
As stated on the uscyberpatriot.org website, CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other STEM disciplines that are critical to our nation's future.
At the core of the program is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, the nation's largest cyber defense competition, which puts high school and middle school students in charge of securing virtual networks. Other programs include CyberCamps, an elementary school cyber-education initiative, a children’s literature series, and CyberGenerations –a cyber-safety initiative geared toward keeping senior citizens safe online.
The WHS high schoolers CyberAvengers and CyberDefenders will participate in a total of three cumulative rounds lasting six hours each including the recently held round one. Unofficial results show the WHS teams outscored more than 50 percent of the high schools they competed against Nov. 13.
Official results for round one comes out Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, with round two set for Dec. 11, and round three in the third week of January, 2021. Each round consists of validating a student's ability to protect and defend Windows Client Workstations, Ubuntu (Linux) Client Workstations and Servers, and Windows Servers. In addition, in the same competition window, students are tested on their book and application knowledge of Cisco networking, including a quiz and a practical Packet Tracer exercise.
Preparation for the competition is in itself a challenge. Students start immediately at the beginning of the school year in eCybersecurity curriculum provided by AFA US CyberPatriot, SANS Cyber Aces, and the Cisco Networking Academy, and taught by volunteers from 2d Theater Signal Brigade (TSB) and the Wiesbaden Chapter of Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA).
Funding is provided by AFCEA Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) grants and Wiesbaden Community Spouse Club (WCSC) STEM grants. Several sponsors such as Cisco, CyFormation, and 327 Solutions, Inc. donated equipment, labs, and books to the program. Several guest speakers came out to speak to the students about the cybersecurity career field and the realm of the possible in cybersecurity.
Colonel Mike Kaloostian, Commander, 2d TSB Commander supports 2d TSB efforts in this program and adds “The 2d TSB is committed to supporting STEM and Cybersecurity programs and we are proud of Mr. Alex Hubert and our volunteers that are unselfishly dedicating their time to develop the next generation of cyberspace leaders.
“Students are preparing for Round Two and Three of the competition through education modules on AFA US CyberPatriot and Cisco Networking Academy (NETACAD) Web sites, through research of cybersecurity best practices in the protection and defense of Windows and Linux systems, and real-word coaching and mentoring from 2d TSB volunteers,” Kaloostian added.
During the competition, students compete for All-Region, All-State, and National awards. Final competition is the national round in March 2021 and only the best are invited to compete there.
While in preparation mode for AFA US CyberPatriot competitions, students learn CompTIA Security+CE (Continuing Education) curriculum and prepare for the CompTIA Security+CE test.
The CompTIA Security+ test is an industry-wide accepted cybersecurity certification and the first step into the professional cybersecurity workspace. WHS seniors get the opportunity to take the test, paid for by AFCEA and WCSC STEM grants.
At this time, eight seniors will have the opportunity to test. 2d TSB mentors helped one WHS senior achieve the CompTIA Security+CE certification in the 2019-2020 school year and this senior graduated with a job offer from General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). He accepted the job offer and succeeding in the cybersecurity profession.
The WHS eCybersecurity program provides WHS seniors who are interested in IT and cybersecurity an opportunity to achieve an industry-wide accepted certification and be marketable upon graduation from high school.
In addition the AFA US CyberPatriot program includes ‘The National Youth cyber Defense Competition, AFA Cybercamps, Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative, Cyber Education Literature Series, (and) Cybergenerations’ and ample opportunity to introduce cybersecurity to K-12 students.
The program always needs volunteers, and for those interested within the Wiesbaden, Germany footprint with any experience in cybersecurity or a drive to learn more, please contact the WHS CyberAvengers and CyberDefenders coach at email@example.com.
EDITORS NOTE: The author of this article is also the lead for the 2d TSB Cyber Patriot efforts at Wiesbaden, High School.