EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This fall, UTEP’s Computer Science department will be sponsoring middle and high schoolers in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense competition.

The lead coordinator, Jennifer Sims says this program is trying to inspire students towards a career in STEM or cybersecurity.

In this event, event teams compete as IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. They are challenged with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities and fixing them. Students receive national recognition and scholarship opportunities for competing.

This year, UTEP will be sponsoring teams who wish to compete and will playing host to competitions on October 15th, November 5th, and December 10th with the semifinals in being held in January. The University will provide coaches to train the competitors while also paying the registration fees.

Sims is actively trying to recruit teams, especially female teams who may not know that this national opportunity exists.

“We are trying to recruit and retain women in cyber security and this seems like a great way of interacting with our community getting community resources available for other students and just allowing for more students to become aware of this opportunity.”

Understanding that women may feel intimidated joining a program like this one, Sims wants to still send a positive message to those who are interested.

“We go we try to give presentations we try to recruit you know local Latinas especially to try to get them and push them through and we offer resources just networking opportunities because were strong when were together.” she added.

Originally interested in the arts, Sims’ daughters, Domino and Zao Gomez, quickly found an interest in cybersecurity and are now set to compete in the competition. Their advise to other young girls who are nervous about joining:

“I don’t see why a mostly male elements of a subject should matter.”-Domino Gomez

“To like not be afraid and that there are other girls who are also kind of scared of this because there’s so many like guys but its alright to be afraid and just try it.”- Zao Gomez

Looking beyond the competitions, Sims is hopeful that people continue to have interest in STEM and cybersecurity. She wants to see it in not just young women, but every student who is curious about the subject.

UTEP and CyberPatriot will be hosting a webinar about the upcoming competition Friday September 23rd, to answer any question potential competitors may have. More information can be found on their webpage.

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