NORTHFIELD — Three Northfield Middle and High School students took part in a statewide cybersecurity competition last Friday in the hopes of going to nationals.
The students participated in the Cyber Patriot competition along with several other Vermont schools. The top-scoring team will go on to compete in the national competition this spring. This is the first year students from Northfield have participated in the event that started in 2009.
The students worked on securing virtual machines by hardening them against security threats while also answering forensics questions related to the virtual machines and performing a Cisco Networking challenge. They received points for answering questions correctly and completing certain tasks.
Henry Collier is the program manager for the online degree-completion bachelor of science in cybersecurity degree at Norwich University and a cyber warrant officer with the U.S. Army reserves. He served as the team’s mentor.
“The overall goal of the Cyber Patriot program itself is to engage high school students and middle school students in the realm of cybersecurity. To get them interested. Because we, as a cybersecurity workforce, have huge numbers of open jobs and not enough people to fill them,” Collier said.
He said competitions like Cyber Patriot are there to show students what its like to work in cybersecurity and to see if that is a career they want to pursue.
Senior Patrick Gamez is such a student. Gamez’s father is in the Army, but because Gamez has asthma he said he can’t follow in his father’s footsteps. So he wanted to find another way to serve his country as a citizen.
“Then I found this cybersecurity option and I’m thinking ‘Well, I can do pretty much the same thing my dad does in a different way,’” he said. “While he’s on the front lines, I’m defending people’s personal information, which is just as vital.”
Junior Kris Stone said he wanted to participate in the competition because he’s been interested in computers from an early age. Stone said he ended up stumbling into a situation where his computer died because it had so many viruses on it.
“I slowly started getting into the security side of things,” he said.
Stone said he’s looking at a career in either computer engineering or networking after high school.
Sophomore Josh Bolio said he’s always been interested in all things technology. He said cybersecurity wasn’t something he was specifically looking to get into, but it was a way for him to broaden his knowledge on the subject.
“I found it quite interesting and stuck with it for a while,” he said.
Bolio said he’s an artist and will likely look to focus on art after high school.