JROTC CyberPatriots set sights on victory in national competition

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By Jacob Balatico
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(Jacob Balatico | Trojan Times) The cadets attend training days on Monday and Thursday for two hours every week. During the training, they learned how to defend against viruses that may have been planted by hackers.
(Jacob Balatico | Trojan Times) The cadets attend training days on Monday and Thursday for two hours every week. During the training, they learned how to defend against viruses that may have been planted by hackers.
(Jacob Balatico | Trojan Times) JROTC cadets were eager to participate because the skills they acquired not only helped them during the CyberPatriot competition but also promised to be useful in everyday life as well.
(Jacob Balatico | Trojan Times) JROTC cadets were eager to participate because the skills they acquired not only helped them during the CyberPatriot competition but also promised to be useful in everyday life as well.

On Oct. 25, 15 of the cadets from MHS’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) were put into three teams to participate in their first official CyberPatriot competition of the school year. Over fall break, the cadets participated in a practice round in order to get ready for the actual competition. Out of a possible score of 200, Teams 2 and 3 scored 177 and Team 1 scored 147. “We always look forward to (uncovering) the secrets and (getting) as many points as possible with the different images that are downloaded,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Schiller. “Our future goal is to win the national competition.”

CyberPatriot is a part of the National Youth Cyber Education Program, created to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and cybersecurity fields. The program was initiated by the Air Force Association and features the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition for high school and middle school students. CyberPatriot is open to all high schools, middle schools and accredited homeschool programs around the country.

“This is (MHS’) JROTC’s third year in competition, and over the past three years, we have a great training relationship with the U.S. Navy, especially our current coach, Lt. J.G. Nicholas Ward,” said Schiller. The cadets received the training for free and learned hacking mythology, how to defend against hackers. “(Hacking mythology is) like removing a virus on your computer or fixing up a leak in the firewall, which is a place a hacker could potentially use to exploit your personal data,” said Junior Tyler Lacroix.

Other than turning on the computer, there aren’t any prerequisites to joining the teams. “All we ask is that each student attends the training practices during the week for about two hours. This training prepares the cadets for the competition and have them work as a team to accomplish the mission,” Schiller said.

Whether the participants actually intend to pursue a STEM-related career or not, CyberPatriot is an experience in itself. “For me it’s just eye-opening, it’s intriguing and interesting because what you learn here can be used in the military or in civilian life and a couple of people get internships in the military or (National Security Agency),” said Junior Quentin-Tyson Tapaoan. Lacroix added, “It builds essential life skills because computers are a valuable technology that is essential to life and the future and building on this now it really sets the (tone for betterment).”

Schiller and the cadets hope to place first in following competitions in order to eventually compete in the national competition held in Maryland.