Cyberpatriot Student Competition Teaches IT Skills

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Learning occurs when there is motivation and resources, we prove this every time we get on YouTube. Students have so much competing for their cognitive surplus that many educators drive themselves nuts trying to compete with highly interactive video games, tv, or social networking. This is where the head fake comes in. While not coined by him, Randy Pausch brought this term into the education world when he referred to ALICE as a way for students to make stories and videos while learning Java Programming. While Robotics provides an excellent challenge for builders, programmers, etc, it is not frequent enough throughout the year so I sought out another way my students could get valuable computing skills.

Luckily, the Air Force Association brought it to my attention that they host a competition called CyberPatriot to encourage students to learn about IT, Networking, and Programming skills. This program began a couple of years ago when it was identified that our global community needs users who are aware of how to properly defend their computers and networks against cyber attacks such as viruses, phishing, and identity theft. Furthermore, there is a need for trained professionals to defend our larger infrastructure against cyberwarfare.

CyberPatriot involves groups of 5 or so students defending their computers against simulated attacks. These attacks occur within a virtual machine so they are harmless to the actual computer but students must defend themselves nonetheless and earn points for their team based upon how quickly and capably they do so. Check out the following promotional video for more info:

The registration cost is $350, but assuming you own a computer, that is all that you need to start a team and compete. All of the training resources and software is free and can be found at While programming and engineering are too often neglected in our schools, IT, networking, and hacking have it all the more difficult. Students who learn these valuable skills are far too often labeled as criminals or thwarted by their schools IT department. But, this would be the perfect program to ask your school's IT manager to be a mentor. They would be given the recognition for all of the hard work they deserve, have eager students willing to learn, and be able to perhaps provide resources or practice scenarios. 

Mentors are hard to find for this program and the books explaining it clearly are even more scarce, which is why we need programs like this to flourish. When FIRST Robotics began 25 years ago, it struggled to gain a foothold in schools and gain the interest of companies. Cyberpatriot is just getting started and your students can be in it from the beginning. This is another opportunity for your students to have fun and learn skills that are highly applicable to the real world and translate into a career, please consider starting a Cyberpatriot team!

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