Twin Falls middle school students play cyber 'capture the flag'

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) In their first year as a team, the Twin Falls School District CyberPatriot Team received an award in the first round of National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

(Source: KMVT)

"We we’re able to go on to the semifinals, which only takes the top of half participants," said Twin Falls School District Technology coach T.J. Adams.

CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force, with the goal of inspiring K-12 students to pursue a career in cyber security or in STEM related fields. At the core of the program is Cyber Defense Competition, which places teams of high school and middle school students in competition rounds where teams have the task of finding and fixing cyber security vulnerabilities in simulated environments.

"They give us a series of operating systems that we try and make better and make it harder for someone to come and attack including password complexity requirements and all sorts of different things," Adams said. "We look forward to improving over the next year."

The enthusiasm students were able to build through their participation in CyberPatriots has carried forward, to the point where the CyberPatriot team and other middle school students are participating in a computer science related event on Tuesday at Vera C. O'Leary Middle school.

"The work that we did with CyberPatriots got them engaged in a real world environment allowing them to try out these different aspects," Adams said. "What we’re doing today is solving a bunch of puzzles that are related to the cyber security industry and are very engaging for them trying to solve and will apply to some of the aspects for our second year of CyberPatriots."

While the capture the flag event on the computer isn't new, Adam's said, the fact that it's being made available for middle school student is.

"The work that their doing with this capture the flag event is extremely engaging," Adams said. "You think of way to try and solve something you work at it and found out that wasn’t it and it really pulls them in.
And that engagement has gotten a lot of excitement out of them. And that excitement is what’s going to lead them into learning a whole lot of new elements in cyber security in multiple ways."

One of those creators of the capture the flag even, Neverlan CTF, is Zane Durkin. Durkin is a former Twin Falls High School graduate who now has a career in a cyber security related field. He said wishing he could've had the opportunity to be exposed to computer science in middle school was the drive behind his work in creating Neverlan CTF. He assisted members of the Twin Falls School District CyberPatriot Team, along with students from O'Leary and Robert Stuart middle schools.

"Instead of flags, it’s little text of string your trying to get off a server," Durkin said. "So you’re just trying to find the world flag with some other text it. Sometimes you got to read through code, sometimes you got to read through a website, sometimes you got to log into the website. It’s finding creative ways to interact with the devices."

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