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Washington Voices

Rogers cyberteam fourth at nationals

Thu., April 21, 2011

The team of Aleks Daranutsa (seated), Petru Vicol, Tu Truong, Zachary Baldwin, Jon Plank and Juwon Smith placed fourth in the national Cyber Patriot competition in Washington, D.C., by demonstrating their skills at defending computers and networks from various types of cyber attacks. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The team of Aleks Daranutsa (seated), Petru Vicol, Tu Truong, Zachary Baldwin, Jon Plank and Juwon Smith placed fourth in the national Cyber Patriot competition in Washington, D.C., by demonstrating their skills at defending computers and networks from various types of cyber attacks. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Watch out, cybervillains, Team TEC Pirates are out to get you. A CyberPatriot team from Rogers High School went to Washington, D.C., for the national finals of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot III national high school cyberdefense competition.

And they came back with a fourth place showing among the 12 teams in the open division.

CyberPatriot is a computer hacker’s nightmare. The student teams compete in cyberworld, on their computers, defending a server and networks connected to it from outside computer attacks.

The attackers – aka Red Shirts – continue to challenge the students throughout the five-hour competition: as soon as they’ve voided one computer virus or intruder, the Red Shirts launch a new one.

The six-member team battled vigilantly.

“The biggest challenge was the constant battle to avoid shutdown and to fix servers that were about to be compromised,” said senior Tu Truong, 18. “And then the time frame. We had five hours with no breaks. It’s pretty intense.” Truong was the team’s gatekeeper to the Internet, an important position because with no Internet access the team can’t compete.

Terry Yeigh, instructor of applied technology at Rogers High School and the team’s coach, said Truong was the second-best gatekeeper of all the students at the contest.

“He did an amazing job,” said Yeigh.

Junior Jon Plank, 16, was the alternate for the team, but he contributed a huge amount of prep work.

“I wrote out the passwords we could use, and for the contest we had this binder we called ‘The Bible’ that was full of technical information for the team to use,” said Plank.

No one on the six-member team had visited Washington, D.C., prior to the April 1 contest, and there was some time for sightseeing.

They got to see The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and tour the monuments around the National Mall. Unfortunately the reflection pool had been drained for maintenance, but some of captial’s famous cherry blossoms were out.

On a less serious note, the group also enjoyed a visit to a Peeps store – yes, the little marshmallow chicks – and they thoroughly enjoyed the hotel and the star treatment there, which included lots and lots of teenage-friendly food.

CyberPatriot teams depend on professional mentors, and the TEC Pirates got help from Eric Turner, with Spokane-based PC Repair and Brandon Thompson from Spokane Public Schools technical support services.

Thompson said Spokane Public Schools would like to see at least one CyberPatriot team at each high school, but professional tutors are needed for that.

“The district is looking for mentors for next year’s season,” said Thompson. “If we had more teams, they could compete against each other during practice sessions and they’d be even more successful at the national level.”

Thompson isn’t the only one looking forward to next year. All the members – except those graduating in June – are sticking with the team for another round of cyberbattles.

Plank summed it up this way: “Let’s go again next year, and let’s get first.”



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