CyberPatriots excel in first year


The St. John Vianney High School CyberPatriot team has had a successful start to its first competitive season and will be entering its toughest test this weekend when it competes in the State Platinum Round this Sunday. 

The team, which was formed this fall, is led by seniors Urban Shocker, Jack Burford and Joshua Russell and coached by Dan Didier.

“It’s great,” said Didier, who also coaches the Vianney wrestling team. “… We started on this in October, where the training for it and the practice images starts in May. So we came into it as a first-year team five months behind. This is great. To be in the platinum level alone was very good.”

The Griffins qualified for this weekend’s event after finishing 311th out of 6,387 teams after two state qualifying rounds — held on Nov. 4 and on Dec. 9 — which placed them in the State Platinum Division. The Platinum is the highest of three divisions, including the Gold and Silver Divisions. 

“The first competition the guys scored perfect on the image test,” Didier said. “Then they have Cisco portion of it — it’s only worth about 10 percent — and of that they scored 17 out of 20 points. So they only missed three points the first round, so that was tremendous. Especially since we’ve never done this before. It’s the first year going into it.” 

This weekend, Vianney will be attempting to qualify for the Platinum National Semifinals and Finals. The CyberPatriot competitions are part of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Education Program, which held its first competition in 2009 and now has more than 6,300 total teams nationwide.

What is the CyberPatriot program?

According to the AFA CyberPatriot website, "At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts 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 while maintaining critical services."

The team, the coach said, has been successful so far but also working hard to get better after getting a late start on the whole CyberPatriot experience and process. 

“I was very pleased with it,” Didier said. “Now, actually, what’s very good about it is they are spending a lot of time writing scripts that will create a program that will automatically identify these issues. You think of football and wrestling and sports where you are practicing all the time. Well, this is how you practice. You write scripts and it’s will this work, will this solve an issue, will this identify an issue? So they’ve been doing that, which is really great.”