COOKEVILLE – A local team of students from Cookeville High School (CHS) recently put their cybersecurity skills to the test in CyberPatriot XIV—the fourteenth season of the Air Force Association’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition and placed third in the world.
CHS has three cybersecurity teams under the direction of coach Mr. Scott Waites, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT- Livingston) instructor. All three teams placed in the top three spots in the CyberPatriot XIV state round competition, with one team, KaliPatriot, moving onto nationals. That is where team KaliPatriot placed third in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program competition. The KaliPatriot team members are Landon Byrge, CHS senior and team captain; Nathan Papa, CHS senior; Parker Johnson, CHS senior; John Reagan, CHS senior; Daniel Fleisig, CHS Senior; and Yaran Hassan, CHS sophomore.
“This is an amazing accomplishment as these students were up against 5,200 high school and middle school teams from around the globe like Japan, Germany, England, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Canada,” said Coach Waites. “The KaliPatriot team can be considered one of the top three cybersecurity high schools in the world and number one in the state of Tennessee. It is absolutely incredible to see what these students have done. I am proud and honored to be their coach.”
Since 2009, CyberPatriot’s competition has challenged teams of students to harden simulated computer systems and resolve real-life cybersecurity situations faced by industry professionals. The competition provides students with hands-on experience securing computer networks while exciting, educating, and motivating them toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM fields.
The 14th season of CyberPatriot kicked off in October 2021 and ended in March. Following the semifinals in January, only 28 teams advanced to the in-person national finals competition held on March 18-20 in Bethesda, Maryland. During the national competition, each team works to secure seven virtual computer systems against a team of cybersecurity professionals nicknamed the “Red Team.” Teams must also familiarize themselves with the CISCO Network Academy content and then compete with that knowledge in Packet tracer and Networking challenges.
“This was a shocking feat that I did not believe was possible five years ago when I started competing,” said Landon Byrge. “The other students we were up against were brilliant and I am so happy to have been able to meet and face off with them. The hard work my team and I have put in over the past few years has finally paid off, and it was a privilege to earn third place against the rest of these amazing teams.”
When it comes to the team’s success and what contributed, all teammates believed it came down to hard work, mentorship, practice and support from parents.
“The primary component of our success is hard work. Our team captain, Landon, spent countless hours the summer going into our sophomore year working on CyberPatriot stuff for us to be able to qualify for national finals that year. I personally had to read a networking course three times in the last three years,” said Nathan Papa. “Our team has created so much documentation on everything you could possibly need for this competition, and all of that stems from the work we put in. We put in a great deal of work, and we, fortunately, received a great deal of success in response.”
This team is part of the Putnam County School System’s CTE program of study in the Information Technology pathway that high school students can dual-enroll in through TCAT Livingston. This allows them the opportunity to further their knowledge in a career they may be interested in.
“The CyberPatriot program allowed me to further my knowledge in the subject of cyber security tremendously, it really brought out my interest in cyber security. We were also able to meet many people who will be great to work with in the future,” said Daniel Fleisig.
Parker Johnson, added, “CyberPatriot introduced me to cybersecurity. Without the program, I would have never been able to find out my true passion and future career in life.”
TCAT Livingston Vice President Jeff Slagle and Dr. Leslie Eldridge, CTE Supervisor for PCSS, congratulate the team.
“This outstanding team of CHS/TCAT Dual Enrollment Information Technology students under the leadership of TCAT Livingston instructor Scott Waites all has a bright future ahead of them,” said Slagle. “We are so proud of their hard work and outstanding efforts to secure this placement in the competition.”
Dr. Eldridge, added, “What has been accomplished by these students and Coach Waites is simply incredible. This is a wonderful program and opportunity for our students in Putnam County to enroll in classes that lead them into future careers in something they love. Congratulations and job well done to team KaliPatriot, Coach Waites and the two other teams who placed at the state level.”
A list of all the registered CyberPatriot XIV teams can be found here.
CyberPatriot greatly benefits from the support and technical expertise of the program’s presenting sponsor, Northrop Grumman Foundation, along with:
● Cyber Diamond sponsors
● AT&T and the AT&T Foundation,
● U.S. Department of Homeland Security
● Cyber Gold sponsors Air Force Reserve
● BNY Mellon
● USAA Foundation
● Cyber Silver sponsors the Air Force STEM
● American Military University
● Aeronautical University
● Gannon University
● University of Maryland Global
For more information about CyberPatriot, visit www.uscyberpatriot.org.