Cyber experts come in all shapes and sizes…some donning the Catholic schoolgirl’s traditional plaid skirts. The young women of Padua Academy had a banner tech year in 2017-2018, taking home their fifth state title in the CyberPatriots competition, several top spots in the Girls Go Digital CyberStart competition, and attending the SANS Women in Cyber Security Conference in Chicago, to learn about jobs in cybersecurity from professional women.
CyberPatriot is the Air Force Association’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The students hack into fake websites and write code to find a “flag,” a clue used to solve the level.
For example, they might look into page source code and find the URL of an image that isn’t working, then manipulate the URL to expose the flag in a correctly displayed image. Finding and resolving simulated cybersecurity vulnerabilities in this fashion demonstrates the teamwork, critical thinking skills, and technical knowledge that are key to a successful career in cybersecurity.
Girls Go Digital CyberStart is a six-day competition that included a “sleepover hackathon” in February. Twenty girls participated in the 24-hour event and enjoyed plenty of pizza and donuts to keep them fueled all night. This competition was open to anyone at Padua, not just members of the CyberPatriots team.
Padua’s stellar curriculum for those interested in cyber technology includes programming in Python and Java, web page design, cybersecurity, Linux OS, game design, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and mobile app development. The curriculum continues to grow to include many other course options and electives, as well as offering opportunities to compete and network.
Oliva Lundstrom, a rising senior, first became interested in coding when her father, a software developer, encouraged her to take a programming class. At the sleepover hackathon, she met a lot of people who were dedicated to the competition, and it increased the fun factor. She said about CyberStart, “I am excited to see the impact it has on the gender disparity in technology fields.”
Sami Faraone is another rising senior who also appreciates the opportunities the competition creates to meet new people. Her favorite challenges were those that allowed her to use Linux, and, she says, “I learned how far I can push myself if I really want to win.”
Olivia and Sami were part of a four-member team who won first place in Delaware, and sixth place in the entire CyberStart competition, along with Hannah Mannering and Miranda Evans.
It was this winning team who was offered the opportunity to attend the Chicago conference in March, along with Padua’s IT Director Fred Stinchcombe and IT Manager Maria Elena Marinelli.
Stinchcombe says, “I’m really proud of the level of effort shown by the girls competing this year, especially the freshmen who’ve been thrown in at the deep end and done SO well. With the experience gained from this year’s competition I’m sure that Padua Academy will continue to improve and excel.”
Members of the first place CyberPatriot team are Ava Stratton ’18, Cameron Miles ’18, Sarah Houseal ’21, Angel Sawicki ’18, and Sarah Jane Mee ’19. Second place team members are Devashree Vasavada ’18, Carter Vaughn ’18, Tingwei Shi ’19, Laura Stankiewicz ’19, Samantha DiVirgilio ’19, and Madeline Dickerson ’21.
Members of the first place Girls Go Digital CyberStart team are Olivia Lundstrom ’19, Hannah Mannering ‘19,
Samantha Farone ’19 and Miranda Evans ’20. As the number one ranked team in the state, “The Cyber Sisters,” as they named themselves, each won a Chromebook and a gift card, and the school received $750.
The third place CyberStart team was Kelsey Mulrooney ’21, Sarah Houseal ’21. Other teams took fourth, fifth and sixth place in Delaware.
A family who finds itself with a budding cyber tech on their hands would be wise to consider Padua Academy’s tech curriculum, as well as its overall reputation. The school consistently achieves a 100% college acceptance rate, and the 151 students in the graduating class of 2017 were awarded more than $28.2 million merit-based scholarships to colleges and universities across the country.