A new competitive club at Marshall School takes technology to the next level. The CyberPatriots team is a group of six Hilltoppers who are working to develop a deep understanding of computer systems. They compete in different IT scenarios, which allow teams to improve the workings and protection of computer systems.
"I get to learn new things, fix errors, and just feel really smart," said 9th grader Keyur Dhungana. "I was never really interested in IT stuff before, but now it's really interesting."
CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program hosted by the Air Force Association. At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition places 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" - making it better protected from potential attacks such as viruses or hacking - while maintaining critical services in a six-hour period.
Essentially, what they do is receive an image and scenario to follow. They use their own computers, and while this creates limitations because of processing power, the students enjoy it all the same.
"It's interesting to see all the ways you can solve different problems," said 10th grader NeVina Robinson. "You see issues that you didn't think were issues before."
Even more impressive than the lessons that this rookie team is learning is that on Saturday, November 14, they attended their first-ever competition and took home a first place finish.
Marshall's CyberPatriots are Dhungana, Robinson, Grant Parajuli, Derek Smith, Max Hahn, and Sahen Rai. They are coached by Marshall parent Anup Parajuli, with mentorship assistance from Vicki McLain from Lake Superior College.
Anup Parajuli notes that there is a great deal of confidence heading into the next round of competitions, despite the team's youth and first-time status.
As of yet, there is not a set location for the second round, which will take place December 5.
For those interested in joining Marshall's CyberPatriots, knowledge of computers isn't required, as students are taught the basics when they first arrive.