Cyber Talk Radio: CyberPatriot, the National Youth Cyber Education Program
Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch of CyberPatriot - Episode 133 of Cyber Talk Radio
This past Sunday, April 14, episode 133 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch, national commissioner of CyberPatriot, to discuss the growing national CyberPatriot program and how they are helping inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM disciplines critical to our nation's future.
We kick off the first half of the show discussing why Bernie is so happy to be in San Antonio, which is because the city sent three teams to Cyberpatriot’s national finals competition (shoutout to the winners of the All Service Division of the Cisco Networking Challenge Team Roosevelt Rough Riders from the Engineering and Technologies Academy at Roosevelt High School Army JROTC)! What exactly is CyberPatriot? The competition is an important coed cybersecurity team sport that is a part of the Air Force Association. It started when a study found that the U.S. was doing poorly in math and science, so there was a need to do something about it for the national security of future generations. They partnered with Dr. Greg White at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to expand the program to elementary, middle and high school students, and have even started a senior citizens program, CyberGenerations (because seventy percent of senior citizens are online and vulnerable to attacks). The competition has grown from eight teams since 2009 to 6,387 teams in 2019. The city of San Antonio is leading the way for getting the program into schools, which is important because there are currently 300,000 unfilled vacant jobs in the cybersecurity industry in the U.S. Next, I ask Bernie to describe what success looks like in the cybersecurity field and on the CyberPatriot teams. It is imperative that we build talent that understands teamwork, ethics, communication, problem solving and other important soft skills that businesses look for when hiring. I mention a previous episode of CTR, where guest Brent Fessler discussed cybersecurity scholarship opportunities, which are a great option for the kids involved in the CyberPatriot program. UTSA’s Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) has been a major part of helping grow the CyberPatriot program and work through lessons learning with software issues, registration, communication with coaches, etc.
After the break, we talk about the competition details, including how it’s organized, how students practice and the scale of the program. An important aspect of the program is mentoring, internships and teacher/coach development. From a school infrastructure perspective, what do they need to support CyberPatriot teams and programs? They are completely funding all-girl teams in order to encourage them in the field and get them more involved in CyberPatriot. Coaches don’t need to be a technical expert, but they need to be good at supporting development of the team's skills. Before the episode ends, I ask what’s Bernie’s biggest surprise over the past decade? The explosive growth of the program has been the biggest and best surprise Bernie could’ve ever imagined!
Upcoming episode – Saturday nights from 11:00 p.m. to Midnight -
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