Loy Norrix’ Cyberknights overcome competition in their first year


Credit: James Hauke

A look inside room M1, Rostam Ahmad Daud’s Information Technology classroom. The Cyberknights practice and compete here with their awards shown on the back wall.

James Hauke, Multimedia Editor

In the growing digital age, Loy Norrix’s Cyberknights showcase what needs to be done to protect us all from the threats of working and browsing online. 

Over the weekend of January 21-22, the LN Cybersecurity club competed online in the semi-finals of the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot, the National Youth Cyber Education Program, for the first time in their introductory year as a club. Now even though scores are not final, the Cyberknights currently sit at 3rd place in Michigan with 115 points out of 300. The top team nationally sits at 175, and the top Michigan team only sits at about 143. 

The 3rd place award for the Loy Norrix CyberKnights team in the CyberPatriot XIV program. This was awarded digitally by Rachel Zimmerman on behald of the AirForce Association.

In addition to their regional third place, the Cyberknights team is currently placed 36th nationally out of 184 teams.

A standard team for the CyberPatriot program consists of 5 individuals, with a 6th person as an alternate; however, the Norrix Cybersecurity club could only garner interest for two teams of 4. 

Club advisor and Information Technology teacher, Rostam Ahmad Daud, explained the Cyberknight’s impressive performance. 

They were going up against teams that have been competing since middle school. The fact they have come as far as they have, understaffed, shows how much they could accomplish next year with additional knowledge and more teammates.” 

The Cyberknights have been practicing since September with only about 1-2 hours a week as a group.

When it came time to compete, the students had 2 different tasks to complete: the first being a Cisco sponsored networking quiz that had students set up and secure a virtual network. 

The second task involved a series of puzzles where students searched for malicious remote access tools a hacker installed on three different virtual machines, an operating system that emulates a physical computing machine such as Windows 10. The students are then supposed to secure the virtual machine from potential hackers. 

Actions taken to secure the system gained the team points, while actions leading to system vulnerabilities made the team lose points. As mentioned earlier, 300 points can be awarded, with each point representing a secured action to protect the system.

In its entirety, the CyberPatriot program allows students to recognize security issues within virtual systems, raising awareness of problems such as identity theft and online security breaches. 

Ahmad Daud commented on how terrifying the shift towards a more technology driven world really is. 

“The drive to bring technology to market under budget while meeting deadlines often means security is an afterthought if at all. The more young minds we can get into cybersecurity, the sooner things can get better.”

The more young minds we can get into cybersecurity, the sooner things can get better.”

— Rostam Ahmad Daud

Ahmad Daud has always had a passion when it comes to technology and its security, which has translated well into his time as not only the advisor of the Cyber Security club, but as a teacher as well.

“Over time, as I learned how vulnerable we are, you begin to look at the world with a different set of eyes,” said Ahmad Daud. “I try to get my students to see the world through those eyes by exposing them to situations I have faced.”

Cyberknight and junior Rishabh Bhattarai reflected on his current experiences with Ahmad Daud’s cyber security program. 

“When I first started learning about cybersecurity, I never thought much about its depth and applications. His [Ahmad Daud] lectures on the topic, the documentaries he’s shown us and the podcasts he’s had us listen to really opened up the topic to have so many different uses I had never previously thought of.”

In addition to the Cyber Security club, Ahmad Daud teaches a trimester long Information Technology course that is meant to provide a foundation for students interested in information technology, information systems, computer science, and cybersecurity. 

Ahmad Daud also teaches a year-long CTE course that builds off the concepts of what students learned in the introductory IT course, offering certifications from CompTIA A+ and Amazon Web Services, which both showcase professional, entry-level technological understanding. 

Any student who is interested in learning more about the IT programs here at Norrix or is interested in being a part of the Cyberknights team can visit Admad Daud in room M1.

It is never too late to learn about cybersecurity,” said Ahmad Daud. 

The Cybersecurity club is currently gearing up for CyberPatriot 15 which will kick off in May and continue throughout the summer. 

Bhattarai also urges students to join with a light-hearted comment, “Don’t think that we’re just a bunch of nerds sitting behind computer screens!”

If you would like to know more about the current state of Cyber Security on a global level, here is a short podcast from CISO Series that Ahmad Daud recommends to all who may be interested.