by Loren Haas
HVA’s CyberPatriots competed in the state competition on January 14, 2017. The team competed in the school building for six hours, during which the three teams within the organization – named the Secret Squirrels, the Trigger-Happy Lizards, and the Wingdings – participated in three different tests of their coding and information technology (IT) skills.
The point of the competition is to show middle and high schoolers’ skills; they are put in the position of IT professionals who must manage the network of a small company. There are three parts of each competition: virtual images, the CISCO quiz and Packet Tracing. The virtual images display security flaws in a business’s network that team members have to correct. The CISCO quiz is where the team members are asked questions about their actions and how to manage their position. At HVA, West requires all team members to agree on the answer before it is officially submitted to prevent any one team member from being blamed. Finally, Packet Tracing is where a team member has to connect different devices onto one network. In the words of Packet Tracer and Trigger-Happy Lizard Irene Li (junior), it is “hell.”
“This is the first time we’ve ever competed on a Saturday,” said CyberPatriots advisor Vivian West. “Most of the time we compete from 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday – the round you can compete in any time (sic.), any six hour period, between Friday morning to Sunday night at midnight. So what I noticed is that we were more calm and relaxed, and I think that’s because we hadn’t been in school all day. They were competing, but they weren’t overly obsessed over how they were doing.”
“[The competition has taught me] that you should study beforehand and not wait until the last minute because it doesn’t work,” said sophomore Neil Patel, a member of the Wingdings team.
The results after the state level competition have yet to be released, but currently the Secret Squirrels are fourth in the state, and the Trigger Happy Lizards are sixth. These two teams are one of the lucky ones to be ranked in the platinum tier, the highest tier in the competition. HVA’s “rookie” team, the Wingdings, is currently in the gold tier, the next tier down.
“The very first team placed third in the state their first year out, in the highest level,” said West. “Last year was our second year, and our first year with three teams, and that original team placed again in the platinum level and the two new teams placed in the gold level, and those two new teams from last year have moved up to platinum, so they’ve made a positive progression each time.”
If the results from the state competition are good, then these teams will compete against teams from their region, which includes Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Only 12 teams from these seven states can move onto the national competition. This round takes place in the middle of February.
“All teams compete in the round, but only the two teams that are platinum have the chance of advancing to nationals after this round,” said West.
The teams this year have been working since March of 2016 for the first round of competition, the first of two qualifiers, that took place in November. They have had a competition every month since. Already, West is making some plans for the future.
“One thing I would like to do next year is to have four teams,” said West. “I think we have that much interest; I had to turn students down this year. They wanted to compete, so hopefully we can add an additional team. And, if they’re an all-girls team, we don’t have to pay the registration for them. So I’d kinda like to add one more team. The other two are mixed, but I’d like to see if next year, I’d have enough to make two all-girls teams and two other teams, so it doesn’t increase the cost for the school or the registration.”
If any HVA teams make it to nationals, they would be competing from April 2 to April 6 in Baltimore.