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Cyber Defense Competition Extended to Middle Schools

Beginning this summer, middle school students will have a chance to learn about cyber security and take part in a national online competition.

CyberPatriot, a national cyber defense competition created by the Air Force Association, is a contest designed to encourage students to pursue careers in cyber security and offer opportunities for gaining valuable hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills while engaging in an interactive, competitive environment.

Developed in cooperation with the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio, with national outreach provided by its presenting sponsor the Northrop Grumman Foundation, the program presents students with a fun and educational extra-curricular activity that allows them to learn about cybersecurity within a videogame-like architecture while raising awareness about national security and the potential vulnerability of networked information.

During the online competition, student teams are given a set amount of time to “clean” between one and three virtual computers that contain several security vulnerabilities. Teams that expose the most vulnerabilities move on to the next round, and the winners of all three rounds compete in the national championship in Washington, D.C.

The initial CyberPatriot pilot program will kick off in the Los Angeles Unified School District in late summer and be expanded to more pilot areas in October. The program will be available to all school districts in 2014.

"As a high school program, CyberPatriot has drawn enormous attention at the national level since its inception," said CyberPatriot Commissioner Bernie Skoch, in a prepared statement. "But a message we have received frequently is 'Now please do something to excite our middle school students about cyber security!' On behalf of the Air Force Association, I can only say 'Message received!'"

Established in 2009 with eight high school student teams the CyberPatriot program has become a national competition with more than 1,200 registered teams in the United States and Canada. For additional resources for schools, teachers, students, parents, mentors, and other community members interested in becoming involved with the program, visit or contact [email protected].

The Air Force Association is a non-profit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association that advocates for STEM education. Visit for more information.

About the Author

Sharleen Nelson is a freelance journalist based in Springfield, Oregon. She can be reached at [email protected].