Since launching in 2014-15, Rowlett High School’s CyberTalons has proved to be a successful and award-winning group. The district’s sole CyberPatriot—The National Youth Cyber Education Program—club has grown to include five teams that continue to put Garland ISD on the cyber defense competition map. This year, one team even made campus history. CyberTalons D placed third in state, showcasing the team’s strong work ethic and talent.
“We have never achieved third-place in the state, so this is a first,” said RHS technology specialist and CyberTalons mentor Frank Roesch.
“I found [placing third] to be quite exhilarating,” added junior Christian Hitchcock. “At first, my hopes weren’t the highest, as I wasn’t able to compete in the first few competitions with my teammates. However, we pushed through and were able to secure a spot in the advancing tier.”
CyberTalons D competed in the silver tier state round and outperformed 669 teams. The four-member crew then moved on to regionals—the highest round available for silver tier qualifiers.
“They are supposed to find all the vulnerabilities in multiple images that might allow somebody to hack or compromise the network. As they fix or correct each one of those, they get points,” explained technology applications teacher and CyberTalons sponsor Trina Cunningham.
During regionals in early spring, CyberTalons D had six hours to complete tasks. The faster they solved matters, the more points they acquired. The team maintained a top 10 position early on, but ultimately placed in the middle.
“I was very pleased with our results. Our team experienced technical difficulties early on, yet were able to recuperate and push forth,” Hitchcock expressed. “I’ve gained a broader grasp on cybersecurity tactics, as well as proper communication abilities with my team members.”
Learning new technical and social skills are true benefits students gain from the Air Force Association-established program.
“We would like to see the CyberPatriot program expand throughout the district. It would be fun to have in-district competitions and build the interest in the cyber defense field,” Roesch said. “I am hoping students who are not graduating this year take the lead, share their knowledge with incoming club members and continue to grow the program.”
Roesch also hopes the district’s upcoming Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center’s cybersecurity courses help inspire new CyberPatriot clubs.