Ascension ranks as CyberPatriot

MELBOURNE | They’re fighting hackers and stomping out viruses. Computer whiz kids from Ascension Catholic school are living out their baptismal call to protect and care for their sisters and brothers in Christ and they’re doing it online.

Five teams of middle schoolers, led by teacher Laura Davis, recently wowed judges at CyberPatriot XII National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, a program created by the Air Force Association to inspire students to choose STEM careers. Stepping into the fictional shoes of a newly hired IT professional charged with managing a small company, the students showed fine teamwork, critical thinking, and enough technical skills to earn them 2nd place in their tier. Next up are the semifinals and with nearly 7,000 teams initially registered, this is a significant accomplishment.

The students were given six hours to find network and computer vulnerabilities in a simulated environment. They discovered and deleted malware and unsafe programs. The identified unauthorized network access and configured the computer’s firewall. Along the way, they picked up points for every problem identified and repaired.

“The CyberPatriot competition teaches students the cyber defense skills they will need in this digital world, not only for a future career in cyber security, but for their own online safety as well,” said Davis. “Students learn how to protect and defend computer networks and how to patch weaknesses that hackers and viruses exploit.”

With recent news of how easily hackers can hijack information from public charging stations, the competition spotlights the importance of protecting data. Team members Peyton, Mark and Luke (eighth-graders) and Santiago and Allia (seventh-graders) all found the experience challenging and worthwhile. Davis hopes to lead them to the Finals Competition in Maryland where they have a shot at national recognition and some scholarship money.

“I have learned so much about computers, which is the future of our generation,” noted Luke. With technology advancing at an unprecedented speed, Peyton agreed noting, “I enjoy learning how to deal with the change in our generation’s use of technology.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic February 03, 2020