While very few would have guessed a year ago that this COVID-19 pandemic would roll into the United States and change life as we know it, there are many important issues that have come to light because of it.  Technology and cybersecurity are just one of the MANY issues that have come to the forefront of this epidemic. While we all know the importance of technology and cybersecurity, these two topics could be said to have become even more crucial in a time where people are being asked to work from home, students are being asked to e-learn, and people now have to rely on technology as a means of communication. Certain skills have had to be developed overnight. As a teacher at Triad High School in Troy, IL, we have developed a partnership with CyberUp for my cybersecurity and computer science classes. CyberUp has given my students tons of opportunities to develop both life skills and valuable content knowledge, and one of the ways they have done this is through their PowerUp: Cyber Games.

As a teacher, I know that my students are learning A LOT of valuable lessons from this once in a lifetime experience. Self-discipline, responsibility, problem solving, flexibility, and communication are just a few of the life skills that all students had to quickly develop literally overnight. Luckily, for some of my students, they already had a lot of these skills so this new setup of e-learning was an easy transition for them. One of the reasons for this is because of the PowerUp: Cyber Games, which fifteen of my students have had the privilege of competing in during this pilot program in Spring 2020. The setup of this competition encourages the use of all these skills. Each month, students take part in a four hour competition where they are asked to solve problems on the month’s topic. Students have to communicate with one another in their groups of up to five students to successfully solve the problems in the least amount of time possible. They also have to communicate with mentors and their teacher to relay any questions they have about topics or issues that may arise before, or even during the competition time frame. The setup of the competition puts a lot of the responsibility and self-discipline on the students to collaborate and learn the material before competing to test their knowledge. PowerUp: Cyber Games truly gives students the skills that all teachers want students to have and all employers want employees to have. These are skills that will serve individuals for the rest of their lives. 

As stated above, technology and cybersecurity have become topics that are critical during this time. Students, and many people in the workforce, are being expected to work solely via technology. This technology use is directly affecting the cybersecurity climate as well. Students in the PowerUp: Cyber games are being taught a wide range of technology and cybersecurity topics that directly affect their online behavior and develop skills necessary to protect themselves when online. Some of the topics that have been covered in the cyber competition are cryptography, open source intelligence, password cracking, and log analysis. While these topics are a bit advanced, it pushes students’ knowledge to new levels. It touches on basic topics as well as more advanced ideas. All of this knowledge is a great foundation for cybersecurity and technology, which is crucial for all people to know in a time like the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenging time for many. While technology and cybersecurity definitely are not the biggest issues that we are facing, they are still an important part. Understanding technology and cybersecurity and having certain workforce skills have become very important during this time. CyberUp and the PowerUp: Cyber games are a great way for students to develop a thorough knowledge base and important life skills that will benefit them for their entire lives, even in tough times like the one we are facing now.

Written by: Stephanie Potthast, Triad High School Cybersecurity and Computer Science teacher