For Immediate Release
January 5, 2011
Delaware High School Team Makes Geek Chic in CyberPatriot Competition
WILMINGTON, Del. – The all-girl team from Wilmington, Delaware is definitely in this year’s CyberPatriot competition to win it.
CyberPatriot is the nation’s largest cyber defense competition geared toward high school students, and it’s catching the attention of educators and students everywhere. And Padua Academy’s ChicSquad, led by Coach Jacqueline Wilson, is anxious to jump into the next challenge.
ChicSquad is comprised of seniors Gina Picciano, Maria Elena Marinelli, Emily Cushing, Megan Petrillo and Marlie Gee, and these young ladies are practicing, researching and studying up on cyber security – all to make the most out of this educational opportunity and to take home the President’s Cup.
“We’ve made a strategy so we could maximize our time,” said Gina Picciano, team captain of ChicSquad.
To better prepare, the team has practiced using different operating systems, researched effective ways to maintain cyber security, studied the CyberPatriot help videos and even monitored the progress of the All-Service Division, to see what potential problems may lay ahead, explained Megan Petrillo.
CyberPatriot is an education initiative created by the Air Force Association, intending to spark an interest in cyber security among today’s youth. To advance in the competition, students must race against the clock and their peers to find and fix weaknesses and potential threats in virtualized computer systems.
“I’ve heard that gaming is the way to enhance learning for students,” said Coach Jacqueline Wilson, the technology coordinator at Padua Academy. “The competition is friendly and exciting and really applicable to their class work. So that’s why I decided to give them the opportunity and they took it and ran with it.”
“[CyberPatriot] has given us a lot of insight to whether or not we want to pursue this further in our future,” said Marlie Gee. “I know the majority of us want to go into something computer-related, whether it be programming, security or information technology. It has really given us a lot of know-how on how to do that.”
They’ve also learned a lot about teamwork.
“We’ve learned more than just the steps of securing a system,” said Maria Elena Marinelli. “We learned the qualities of working together and our bond as a team has really grown a lot stronger. And the technical parts of it all, the hands-on experience of real world issues—it’s all really realistic in the sense that the vulnerabilities we are running into are the vulnerabilities a lot of people face in the real world.”
Turning Geek to Chic
Since the competition originated, more and more female students have registered. However, the number of male high school students participating in the competition still greatly exceeds the number of female high school students participating. But that doesn’t bother the ChicSquad at all.
“We shouldn’t assign gender roles to positions like these,” said Emily Cushing. “Anyone can do it, no matter who you are. And we all have the information at our fingertips.”
“‘Geek is chic’ is our motto,” added Coach Wilson.
CyberPatriot is about building a strong national foundation for cyber skills throughout the country’s high schools. It is designed to be an interactive tool of academic instruction that’s both fun and exciting.
“That’s the best part of the competition,” said Maria Elena. “We get the personal benefits of knowing all this stuff. But then my parents get angry with me because I lock down the computers. …It limited their functionality, but all in preparation for the competition!”
ChicSquad is one of the 51 teams that have advanced to the third round for the competition’s Open Division, which has teams registered from public, private, parochial and home schools. The next competition will be January 8, 2011, and will determine which 12 teams receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the finals in Washington, DC.
CyberPatriot is presented by Northrop Grumman, with founding partners SAIC and the CIAS at the University of Texas-San Antonio. More information can be found on CyberPatriot at
The AFA is a 501(C)(3), nonprofit organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation. AFA has over 200 chapters nationally and internationally representing 120,000 members. Visit AFA www.AFA.org.
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