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April 1, 2011—
All speakers on Thursday's CyberPatriot panel at AFA's CyberFutures Conference near Washington, D.C., agreed there is a lot of catching up to do as far as preparing the nation's youth to be competitive on the world stage in subjects like math, science, and engineering.

However, they said initiatives such as AFA's CyberPatriot—the world’s largest high school cyber defense competition—have proven successful because they have engaged young people where they are comfortable and given them the forum to apply their skills competitively.

Cyber security and the cyber realm is still a relatively new arena, said Natalie Granado, associate director for training within the Institute for Cyber Security at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

Aside for time and money, there are few limitations on the growth of efforts such as CyberPatriot, she noted, adding that a good deal of the effort will be building awareness of the program.

Also important to the education piece is building awareness in the whole process, not just in building cyber defenses, but also the ethics and steps involved in putting together defenses in cyberspace.

Diane Miller, director of operations for Northrop Grumman's cybersecurity group, said industry's role in helping to grow the success of CyberPatriot has much to do with preparing teachers to work with the subject matter and topics and helping to show that there are careers in the cyber realm and that many employees are willing to donate their time to help mentor young people.

She noted that more than 50 of Northrop's employees have volunteered to be advisors for the CyberPatriot III competition and to help mentor some of the young adults—sometimes remotely from long distance.

While CyberPatriot now is focused on simple cyber defense activity, education in the tools, the fundamental processes, and the ethics of the realm will pave the way for the competition to someday work with advanced skills, such as newer network applications and cryptology, said Duke Ayers, program manager for SAIC's Cyber Network Exercise System, or CyberNEXS.