Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) continued success in technology competitions recently attracted the attention of ABC’s Eye Witness News. Channel 7’s Education Reporter Art McFarland visited the school’s cybersecurity class in its Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) program to learn about this emerging and important field of study. The show, which was broadcast on Tuesday, December 11, can be viewed at http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/video?id=8916404.
RBR AOIT teacher Mandy Galante told the TV audience how her student cyber sleuths are first taught to hack into computers in order to learn how to best fortify them against such vulnerability. RBR’s cybersecurity class, which carries four college credits through the University of Syracuse, is the latest in a career pathway which teaches students how to build computers, their networks, and ensure their safety. The class is conducted in a very hands-on environment (versus lecture-style) with students continually engaged in regional and national competitions to enhance and test their skills.
Their latest competition, the NYU- Poly Cyber Forensic finals, took place this
past November at NYU-Poly in Brooklyn. Only ten teams made it to the final round from among the 500 teams who competed in the six week national program. RBR had two teams in the top ten with their Team Significant Bits, winning second place. That team, composed of Ryan McVeety, Little Silver, Michael Terpak, Union Beach and Alec Jasanovsky, Neptune City, also placed first in the NYU Quiz Bowl, which tested general technology knowledge.
Team PetaFlops, RBR’s second team to compete in the finals, included Emily Wicki, Union Beach, A. J. Ostrander, Millstone, and Phil Cundari of Shrewbury. Team Significant Bits members each won $12,000 /year in scholarship money
and Team Petaflops members each won $7,000/year attend NYU Poly. Several of the winning seniors have applied to NYU-Poly to utilize these valuable scholarships
next year to further their study in preparation for a career in Cyber Security or Cyber Forensics. Their success also brought $2,000 to their school’s technology program.
In addition to the two finalist teams, an all-female team from RBR was invited to view the competition in the hope of encouraging more female interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies. RBR’s Team Sudo Sleuths, composed of Darby Olex-Memoli, Neptune City, Brooke Willemstyn, Little Silver, and Hannah Haugenes, Little Silver, had competed in the initial rounds of the competition.
Mrs. Galante comments, “The idea was to get them interested so these girls learn
that they can do this. They did a great job and want to do it next year.”
Contestants in the competition were judged on how much evidence or information they could attain relative to solving a hypothetical crime, which in this case was a mysterious murder. Students employed their cyber forensic skills on two electronic devices, a laptop and a cell phone, to mine clues.
“There was a physical challenge added this year,” Emily Wicki explains, “as individual teams were brought to a dark room to examine the physical scene of the crime.”
“The program was tricky.” Alex adds. “A group of vigilante hackers, molded on the hacktivist group Anonymous, was thrown in as a red herring to throw us off the track.”
According to the cyber students, the competition increased in intensity from last year, when RBR took the first place prize. The actual final competition time doubled from four to eight hours.
The increased competition time might have actually helped RBR this year as Team Significant Bits spent the first three hours trying to revive their crashed computer.
“Well, just like in real life, this stuff happens,” Mike Terpak explains.
As usual, the teams’ chaperones and teachers, Mandy Galante and Jeremy Milonas, could only watch from the sidelines as their students utilized all the training practiced and honed day after day in their classrooms. The boys were “on their own” in the final competition, and they worked furiously to make up for lost ground in time to win the second highest spot.
Mandy Galante developed the RBR AOIT cyber security of the curriculum, which has become a favorite among RBR AOIT students.
She credits her colleague, RBR AOIT teacher Jeremy Milonas, who accompanies her and the students on regional and national competitions explaining, “Mr. Milonas has become integral to the competitions. With the addition of his expertise we have been able to support more student teams.”
Now that RBR teams are back home with the trophy, it will be time to start training the next group of winners. The senior members of the teams will work
over the winter to help recruit younger competitors and show them some of
tricks of the cybersecurity trade. Can they pull off the hat trick next year to bring home the third trophy? Coach Mandy Galante comments “RBR cyber students clearly have the talent and the willingness for hard work, so it could happen!”