At Longs Peak Middle School, students are solving challenging computer science and IT problems as part of the CyberPatriot competition. Last Friday, three teams took part in the event, competing against other middle schoolers to find weaknesses in the system, secure passwords, and verify authorized users.
Monica Moreno-Martinez, a computer science teacher at Longs Peak Middle School, mentors the students and gets them excited about cybersecurity. “There is a huge need for cybersecurity, and a lot of jobs in the field. I am excited to help create a pathway for students to get into cybersecurity,” she says.
Moreno-Martinez, whose brother and father both work in cybersecurity, says the program “gamifies” cybersecurity concepts to help simplify them. CyberPatriot was created by the Air Force Association to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM careers. Students take the role of newly hired IT professionals and are tasked with locating and patching vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services. “It is a lot like solving a puzzle,” says Moreno-Martinez. The students are taught to evaluate and understand security needs, helping prepare them for even more complex lessons in high school.
For Moreno-Martinez, her interest in teaching cybersecurity goes beyond introducing students to the career path. She also wants to inspire more minorities to take part in cybersecurity and in other STEM disciplines. “There is not a lot of representation of minorities in computer science. Not just with a lack of diversity, but also with a lack of women in the field. It’s important for me to show students what’s possible and inspire them to try something new.”
In addition to the CyberPatriot competition, Longs Peak Middle School offers a number of STEM focused classes including Robotics, Computer Science, and Cybersecurity. The CyberPatriot competition and these challenging courses help prepare students for the competitive, global world we live in today.