Tallahassee Middle School Teams Capture Top Honors in National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

cyberpatriot team

CyberPatriot team members: Left to right Audrey Zhang, Ivy Sun, Alexander Li, Kevin Hu, Yichen Ou, Zoe, Emily Ding, Roger He, Daniel Yang, Dr. Lichun Li (Courtesy Li)

In a sweeping victory, two Tallahassee middle schools scored first and second place in the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The students made it to the semifinals and if they are successful have the chance to compete in the nationals this spring.

The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering sponsored the Cyber Patriot teams. The teams are two of the 75 middle school teams who participated from Florida this year. There are over 5,264 teams in the nationwide K-12 program.

“We are thrilled and proud that our students did so well in this competition,” Lichun Li, assistant professor at the college, said. “This is the first time they have competed and are planning to work towards a trip to the National Finals Competition in Maryland.” 

Li is the coach and mentor for the two teams, TallyCyberkids, represented by Emily Ding, Roger He, Zoe Xu, and Daniel Yang, and TallyCyberkids2, represented by Alexander Li, Yichen Ou, Ivy Sun, Andrey Zhang, and Kevin Hu. All the students attend Deerlake Middle School except Hu, who attends Montford Middle School. The teams respectively earned first and second place in the first three rounds of competition. 

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative fields in the United States, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to grow by 33% in the next decade. To meet the needs of the future, the National Youth Cyber Education Program encourages K-12 students to go into careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through competition and other inspirational activities.

“If our teams are successful, we are going to coordinate with the FSU Cyber Security Club to train together for Finals,” Li said. “If not, we will draw experience and prepare for the next competition season beginning with a camp during the summer. We would like to invite more students to benefit from the opportunity.”

The National Youth Cyber Defense Competition gives high school and middle school students opportunities to experience what newly-hired IT professionals do in managing the network of a small company. In a series of online competition rounds, teams are given a set of virtual operating systems and are tasked with finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining critical services. The top teams in the nation earn all-expense paid trips to Maryland for the National Finals Competition, where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money. 

Other programs include AFA CyberCamps, an elementary school cyber education initiative, a children’s literature series, CyberGenerations, a senior citizen cyber safety initiative, and a Tech Caregivers program designed to encourage cyber-savvy volunteers to give back to their communities.

“These students really put forth and effort and are excited about being part of a solution for something that will help the country,” Li said. “They are the future and are getting the chance at a young age to see what it’s like to solve real world problems.”


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