Much like we've had ROTC programs in our schools for decades to encourage young people to get involved in the military now, there is an after-school anti-hacking computer science program called Cyber Patriot. It was conceived by the Air Force Association to inspire high school students toward careers in cyber security as well as more involvement in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM disciplines.
When the Cyber Patriot Competition started 7 years ago there were 8 teams. Now, there are more than 2100. Here in LA there are three teams going to the national finals. One team is from Franklin High School, The other two are from North Hollywood High and, one of those two is the returning national champs. Members of North Hollywood High's Team Azure still remembers sitting in a ballroom in Washington, DC and hearing an announcer at the 2014 awards banquet say "It's now my pleasure to announce the National Champion in the open division. North Hollywood High School coached by Jay Gehringer!!!" They were stunned. The looks on their faces said it all.
With that memory and an enormous feeling of accomplishment the two teams from North Hollywood High have been preparing for Cyber Patriot 7. The theme anti-hacking. Defending against cyber terrorism! The teens have been practicing and preparing since summer. They've survived 5 months of preliminary competitions and they are headed back to the finals!
It was 5 years ago that Beyond the Bell , the LAUSD after school program, launched an intensive effort to train students to compete in the Cyber Patriot anti-hacking program. This year LAUSD had 148 teams and over 600 students registered. And, now three going to the finals to compete in the top 12 from the U.S. and Canada.
When they get to the nation's capital they'll sit at computers and face a barrage of cyber attacks from fake hackers. They'll have to do some quick thinking to fix the problems and score points. Team member Issac Kim says "some of these involve viruses, malware and spyware."
Team member John Yoon says "When you're going into the competition you don't know what's going on or what's broken. It's about analyzing the situation and acting appropriately."
Travis Raser was on the 2014 championship team. He says, "It's just that's what I'm good at. That's what I've been doing. I know my way around it 100%. I know how to do every little thing."
"Knowing how to do every little thing" is the goal of the program as it aims to build future cyber terrorist fighters and prevent the damage they cause.
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