Notre Dame CyberPatriot team finishes No. 1 versus more than 80 other schools in Michigan; alum talks about her cybersecurity major in college.
In the latest rounds of the most recent edition of the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, Notre Dame Prep students Mariana Ortiz Luna ('19), Nolan Kuza ('21), Devin Martin ('19) and Chris Paul ('20) finished as the top team in the state of Michigan.
According to Eden Konja, Notre Dame’s director of information and academic technology, the team's total cumulative score from rounds 1 and 2 placed it first in Michigan, beating more than 80 other schools and placing it in the "platinum" tier of teams.
"This year was the first year we made it to the semifinals as Nolan and Mariana helped lead the charge," Konja said. "Mariana provided the experience since she competed the last two years. Nolan's a transfer sophomore and is a very knowledgeable. I am very impressed by the talent of these kids. I hope to build a team around them during the next couple of years."
Sponsored by the Air Force Association, which is based in Arlington, Va., the CyberPatriot competition features teams from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Department of Defense schools in Europe and the Pacific, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Hungary.
The competition puts teams of high 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.
In addition to Notre Dame Prep, other top-tier teams from Michigan in this year's competition included those from Woodhaven High School, Troy High School and Cass Technical High School.
Konja said Notre Dame has participated in CyberPatriot for three years now and noted that it was in fact the inspiration for one of its most recent graduates to pursue cybersecurity in college.
Haley Williams, who graduated last May, is attending University of Detroit Mercy and taking a double major in criminal justice and cybersecurity, which is part of the school's Cybersecurity & Information Systems department. She said she's interested in eventually becoming a digital forensics scientist for the FBI and is currently doing a co-op with the government in defensive cybersecurity.
"My experience with the CyberPatriot team at Notre Dame was quite informative," Williams said. "Through being a part of that team, I was able to learn more about security than I would have on my own. It also helped me find my passion for cybersecurity and helped me to connect with more people in the field."
Williams also said that her high school prepared her well for the general rigors of university life.
"There is a lot of time management needed in college and because of the clubs I participated in at NDP — robotics, CyberPatriot, soccer and computer club — I learned a lot about time management, which is helping to make my classes at UDM run much smoother," she said. "Also, because of the AP and IB classes at NDP, I was able to learn how to self-teach myself on certain topics. In college, I've found out that self-teaching is pretty important if you want to keep up."
"I am hoping to get more students involved in the CyberPatriot competition and we may even start a middle-division team," he said. "It does cost to compete but I have been able to reach out to connections for financing. Walsh College paid for our first year and University of Detroit Mercy has helped pay for the last two years. Grant money is also available from the state, but we do not qualify as a private school."
Konja also pointed out that in addition to CyberPatriot and NDP's computer club, the school manages a "Girls Who Code" club. He said to visit www.girlswhocode.com for more details on the increasingly popular initiative.
More on CyberPatriot and the Air Force Association:
CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association to inspire high school, middle school and elementary school students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future and to help students be safe on line. In addition to the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, the program features AFA CyberCamps and AFA's Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative.
CyberPatriot, the nation's largest and fastest growing youth cyber education program, is AFA's flagship STEM program dedicated to strengthening cyber skills among American youth. Students in the program also gain valuable knowledge from the expertise of CyberPatriot's many supporters, including the Northrop Grumman Foundation, CyberPatriot's presenting sponsor. Other program sponsors include Cyber Diamond sponsors AT&T Federal and the AT&T Foundation, Cisco, Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Cyber Gold sponsors Facebook, Riverside Research, Splunk, and Symantec; and Cyber Silver sponsors Air Force Reserve, American Military University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Leidos, and University of Maryland University College.
The Air Force Association is a non-profit, independent, professional military and aerospace education association. Its mission is to promote a dominant United States Air Force and a strong national defense, and to honor Airmen and our Air Force Heritage.
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org