BALDWIN PARK – Baldwin Park High School senior Karmen Lance and her two partners scanned the computer network of a small company for cyber-attacks while maintaining critical services on Dec. 8 as they competed in a virtual computer competition.

Lance and her team were acting as IT professionals in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

CyberPatriot tasked two teams of high school and one team of middle school students with filling the roles of newly hired IT professionals at the event – held at Baldwin Park High School. Teams – all of whom are enrolled in the high school’s IT Essentials class – earned points for each problem they solved.

“Equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce is an important goal of Baldwin Park Unified,” Superintendent Dr. Froilan N. Mendoza said. “Cybersecurity is an increasingly important career field. We are shaping instruction to match the needs expected to develop over the coming years.”

The IT Essentials Course is offered through the CISCO Networking Academy, which provides curriculum spanning the fundamentals of networking, security, data and analytics, as well as various systems of computing devices and operating systems.
Lance plans to pursue a degree in video game development.

“I have always been interested in computer technology, but with this course I have learned so much more,” Lance said. “I have really enjoyed the hands-on experience – just recently we made ethernet cables, which was really fun.”

The course is taught by Ethel Fimbres, a CISCO Networking Academy certified teacher at Baldwin Park High School.

“These courses get students to collaborate and work together in a setting that equips them with skills that are essential for the 21st century workforce,” Fimbres said.

Fimbres teaches about 60 students in three classes, one of which consists of students from Jones Junior High School.

“I really enjoy learning about computers, beyond just playing with them,” Jones Junior High eighth-grader Jesus Lopez said. “The most fun part of being in the competition is when I get an answer right, it just feels like all my practice is paying off.”

Baldwin Park High School’s CISCO students competed in the first CyberPatriot round in November. Scores from both contests will be counted toward the competition’s state round on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Teams that score high enough during the January round can compete for the top spot in their state, with the best teams traveling to Baltimore for the National Finals, to be held Sunday, April 7 through Thursday, April 11, when they can earn national recognition and scholarship money.


BPUSD_CYBERPATRIOTS_1: Ethel Fimbres, a CISCO Networking Academy certified teacher, oversees the second round of the CyberPatriot global competition with Baldwin Park High School senior student Karmen Lance, who competed with her team Cloud9.

BPUSD_CYBERPATRIOTS_2: Jones Junior High students form the Cyber Raptors team act as IT professionals, seeking vulnerabilities in the network of a small company while maintaining critical services during the second round of the CyberPatriot competition on Dec. 8.