Three people from the University of Arizona South in Sierra Vista are working with local middle school students to prepare them to join the cyber workforce of tomorrow. A staff member, assistant professor, and student helpers are serving as coaches and mentors to 20 students from the Palominas School District's K-8 schools of Coronado and Valley View. Angela Lucero, a senior elementary education major, is coaching the currently ranked first-place Arizona CyberPatriot Middle School Team, comprised of all 8th grade girls. In her third-year of coaching, Lucero was instrumental in bringing the nationally-known youth cyber defense competition to the rest of the Palominas Schools. In addition to her top team, she also coached a younger team from Valley View School. Working together in a team of five students, the middle school students solve cyber security and computer networking challenges focused on Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Cisco networking equipment. Points are awarded when the computers are secured and viruses, unauthorized files and software are removed. The teams with the most points after the six-hour round of competition move on to the next round.
Chito Banuelos, Assistant Professor of computer Network Administration at UA South, is mentoring two teams from Coronado School. With his career in cybersecurity-related topics on a local military installation, this is a natural extension to see the local schools provide a future cyber workforce. Professor Banuelos provides technical guidance, instruction, and advice to the 10 students from Coronado, of which are 60 percent female. Dr. John DeLalla, Director of Continuing Education at UA South, is coaching the two teams from Coronado School. One of his teams has qualified for the national semi-finals, and is one of the youngest teams in the country to complete, with all sixth grade (11 and 12 years old) students on the team. The other team was comprised of all but one sixth grader, making the first year for Coronado a building year for future success. The results from the Coronado teams this year are that already one sixth grader has decided they want to work in cybersecurity, and is looking at options to further their education to prepare for a career in a STEM-focused field such as cyber. UA South, in conjunction with Cochise College, provides a local option for continuing education in Sierra Vista.