Featured Cyber Foundation Students

Mike T., 17, Union Beach, NJ

Mike is currently a high school junior. He participated in the Fall 2011 Challenge.

Who or what has shaped your interest in information technology?
Years ago, a friend showed me a computer program where I could design my own game, and I've been hooked on technology ever since. My parents have been the main contributing factor to my ability to pursue my interest. Their support has been unyielding. I've also been lucky to have two amazing teachers, Mandy Galante and Jeremy Milonas, who are fun and dedicated and great at what they do. They worked together to help me and other students get into the competition.

What's the best thing about participating in the Cyber Quest Challenge?
I learn so much more in a hands-on testing environment than I ever would just listening to a lecture or reading a book. It's fun and really rewarding to do the competition and learn it by doing it, no matter how well you end up performing.

What do you expect to study in college?
I'll definitely study computer science and networking. I've already been accepted to NYU-Poly and am also looking at Stevens Institute and Carnegie Mellon. After that, hopefully I'll be doing software development for a Fortune 500 company or cyber security for the US government.

Jared K., 18, Little Silver, NJ

Jared is a high school senior who has participated in the Challenge twice. He and classmate Mike T. were among the top scorers in the state of New Jersey.

Have you had any unique opportunities as a result of participating in the Cyber Challenge?
Our high school is unusual in that we have an entire track of cyber security classes, and our teacher Mandy Galante mentors students who are interested participating in events and competitions. We ended up with the three highest scorers in the state of New Jersey, and Lieutenant Governor Guadagno came to our school to recognize us. (Video)

What's your dream job?
Being a judge on Iron Chef! If that's not possible, I hope to work toward creating workable strategies for greening our energy supply and remediating the environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption.

What would you tell other students considering participating in the Challenge?
Just go for it! It's not a huge time commitment, and the material is interesting even if you're not deeply into technology. When I participated, there was a lot in the third module about Python programming that I didn't understand; then when we learned about Unix at school, it all clicked, just from having seen the questions in the module. So you'll pick up great background knowledge. Even if you don't want to be a cyber security professional, you'll learn to be a better user of everyday technologies.

Gavy A., 15, Newark, DE

Gavy is a sophomore. He has participated in two Cyber Foundation Competitions and is already planning to compete again in Fall 2012.

What early influences shaped your interest in technology?
Both of my parents are computer engineers, so our house has always been full of the latest versions of every kind of technology. It's always been a part of my life.

What would you say to other students who are considering participating in the USCC?
Go ahead and try it! There's nothing to lose and so many interesting new things to learn. I participated last fall, this past spring, and I'm already planning to participate in the fall. I was surprised by the scope of the challenge and how much it covers. It also taught me a lot about how easily our devices and data can be hacked, exploited, stolen and replicated. It's scary!

What technology do you most hope we have ten years from now?
We have so many amazing technologies that are cool on their own, but it would be really incredible to combine them and control them from one source so there's a single integrated device to control your surroundings your TV, your appliances, your heating and air conditioning. Maybe something biometric that is integrated into the human body.

Brandon I., 18, Muskegon, MI

Brandon, a high school senior, competed in the Challenge in Spring 2012.

What is your earliest technology memory?
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I built my first computer from scratch. I was using spare parts and scraps, so it would only run the Linux kernel. I had to learn Linux to use my homemade machine, and I've been running Linux ever since.

What would you say to other students who are considering participating in the USCC?
I'd say you should definitely do it! There is so much information to go over, and it's a good chance to learn what interests you and what you're good at. It's a pretty simple competition, but no matter how well you perform, you learn so much. And since it's all online, you have nothing to lose.

What's up next for you?
I'm going to attend Michigan Tech to study computer security.