Cyber Patriots: Paving the way to finals

After competing last month in the semi-finals, Enochs’ own Cyber Patriots team will be heading to Maryland over spring break to compete in Finals


Abigayle McKinney, Editor in Chief

On March 28, 2023 Enoch’s own Cyber Patriots team competed in semifinals for the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The team placed 11th out of almost 3,490 teams from across the nation – giving them a ticket to Finals, which are hosted in Maryland from March 17-21. 

Team captain Brayden Borges and members Jonah McKinney, Noah Arnold, Michael Morris, and Keziah Vallesteros are seniors at Enochs high school and the team that took Enochs to victory. And for this semi-finals tournament fellow Cyber Patriot Isabella Zardo also helped lead the path to success. 

Their hard work has spanned over many years of Cyber Patriots competition as they have worked to build this growing program here at Enochs. They are the first team in Stanislaus County to make it to Finals, and are hopefully paving the way for many more teams to come in the future. 

The team shared their excitement about making it to finals, and about what it means for the Enochs Cyber Patriots group in particular. As the first team to do something like this in the area, their excitement was palpable throughout the entire interview. While they have a lot of work to do leading up to this moment, i’s significance is not lost on its members. 

Team Captain Brayden Borges commented, “It is both a positive and a negative to know that we are paving the path because the deal is, is the fact that whenever you pave the path the chance that we realistically win is much lower because there is a lot of information that’s learned by doing it and failing. So we increase the chances for whoever goes after us by providing information, kind of at our own expense because no one came before us.” His other team members shared a similar sentiment, that they were proud of how far they had come, but they all know that the work they are doing now is really going to help other teams in the future to go farther than them and be stronger than them. 

Here at Enochs there are four teams, all of which compete in the beginning of the year, with skill levels that range from beginner to intermediate. Each competition requires a certain level to go on, so only one team made it all the way to semifinals – and now finals! – this year. The teams participate in competitions 4 times a year, from the fall-January, excluding the finals circuit. The competitions are 6 hours long over 3 days, but the preparation takes hours outside of that. The team studies individually, working during school and in their free time to hone the skills needed to compete. 

Competition is broken up into two parts, ‘images’ and ‘Cisco’. In a normal competition, one person is specialized in working with Cisco and works on that piece on their own, while the rest of the team completes the ‘images’ part of the competition. 

For the Enochs team, student Jonah McKinney runs the Cisco portion while Noah, Brayden, and Michael work through the images portion. However, for Finals everyone will have to learn every skill for the final competition. 

It can be hard to follow along with the work the Cyber Patriots do because it is very advanced for the general person to understand, but our team tried to break it down a little bit for us. According to Jonah McKinney, “The team is given 3-4 simulated computers, and one networking challenge, where we have to complete a quiz and configure a network.” This involves combing through systems to find errors and vulnerabilities and fix those under a certain time frame. 

The skills that they practice during this competition simulate network administration and system administration roles in “real world” context.

Cyber Patriots as an organization was created by the Air & Space Forces Association to “inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future” according to their official website. They aim to guide and train the next generation of members of our STEM fields to help protect our country and keep it advancing towards a brighter future.