California Mayors Cyber Cup

The California Mayors Cyber Cup is a series of regional competitions coordinated across California. Student teams will compete in a cyber competition on behalf of their city mayor once per year in the spring to bring home the cup to their city hall trophy cabinet for that year.

To be successful in the efforts to fill the shortage of jobs in cybersecurity, it is critical to have city level buy-in from California’s elected public servants. By sponsoring cyber competitions, California’s mayors are showing their support for meeting the needs in cybersecurity and for preparing our future workforce.

The California Mayors Cup Cyber is coordinated by the California Cyberhub and will be hosted in three regions throughout California: Greater Sacramento, Inland Empire/Desert, and Orange County.

Eight to 10 CyberPatriot teams from each region will compete to take home a trophy presented by the city council and mayor from that region. The winning teams will also advance to compete at the California Cyber Innovation Challenge at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this summer.

Please contact Cyberhub Communications Specialist Teana Fredeen if you are interested in participating in the California Mayors Cyber Cup.

Bay Area Regionals

CyberPatriot teams from northern California will also have the opportunity to compete in the Bay Area Regional Competition, also being held April 28. Students will have the opportunity to compete in five challenges related to cybersecurity, digital forensics, and networking.

Like the Mayors’ Cup, the winning team will represent the Bay Area in the California Cyber Innovation Challenge this summer.

The event is coordinated by Irvin Lemus and Richard Grotegut of the Bay Area Community College Consortium. Visit the Bay Area Cyber Competitions website for more information on the Bay Area Regionals and other events happening in that area.

Beyond the Bell Cyber Cup

In Southern California, the Beyond the Bell program in the Los Angeles Unified School District will hold its own cyber cup on April 28. The event will also recognize the district’s teams that advanced to CyberPatriot nationals and semi-finals.

Students will compete on two images and complete a Cisco quiz and a packet tracer exercise. The two top scoring teams will advance to the Cyber Innovation Challenge.

The Beyond the Bell Cyber Cup will also serve as an opportunity to introduce new students to CyberPatriot and recognize the program’s sponsors and the school district IT personnel who make the competition possible throughout the school year.

“Every day, California companies deliver ground-breaking technological advances – from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence, 3D printing and nanotechnology,” said GO-Biz Director Panorea Avdis. “This program will help students across California gain new technical skills to spur new innovation and strengthen cybersecurity.”

“In addition to training students on cyber forensics, we will provide hands-on learning opportunities for the next generation of cyber defenders,” said Cal Poly Cybersecurity Center Director and Vice President of Information Technology William J. “Bill” Britton. “Being a part of the Innovation Challenge is a big step toward realizing that goal of strengthening cybersecurity.”

Over the next few months, teams of high school students from across California will compete in timed cybersecurity challenges designed to replicate the many different threats that cybersecurity professionals face, including attacks on critical infrastructure and attempted breaches of consumer data on connected devices. Eight winners from designated regional cybersecurity competitions will earn automatic entry to the statewide tournament in San Luis Obispo, and the remainder will come from an “at-large” selection process that will draw teams from areas that do not currently have regional competitions.

The 2018 event will include a digital forensics challenge and other challenges with an overall focus on highlighting the importance of cybersecurity in healthcare. In addition, the Cyber Innovation Challenge will feature a new dual-division structure comprised of veteran and newcomer teams.

To attend the free California Cyber Innovation Challenge, please register at High schools interested in joining the competition and sponsors seeking to support the competition can email Jesse Torres at [email protected] to learn more.

About GO-Biz
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) serves as California’s single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts. GO-Biz offers a range of services to business owners including: attraction, retention and expansion services, site selection, permit streamlining, clearing of regulatory hurdles, small business assistance, international trade development, assistance with state government, and much more. For more information visit,

About Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive public university located in San Luis Obispo, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on California’s Central Coast. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose 21,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives. Cal Poly is consistently ranked a top university for academics, value and graduate’s salaries. For more information, visit

Arthur Shemitz, GO-Biz
(916) 322-0675; [email protected]

Cynthia Lambert, Cal Poly
(805) 756-5160; [email protected]


McNally did not have any cybersecurity training or experience when he started as a coach in 2011, but that didn’t stop him from pushing forward. He drew from materials provided by the Air Force Association and looked to Vahanian for technical assistance.

He encourages any teacher who is interested in CyberPatriot to consider becoming a coach, regardless of their technical experience.

“A coach’s job is to supervise while students learn from online resources,” McNally said. “You don’t need to know cybersecurity at all.”

A Setback Turned Opportunity

Shortly after McNally’s CyberPatriot team — the first one in Northern California — was up and running, it hit a setback that might have caused other coaches to throw in the towel.

Two students who gravitated towards the CyberPatriot program in the fall of 2011 had installed their own games onto the computers in a computer lab the previous spring. This was against school policy and caused the CyberPatriot team, that these students were now a member of, to lose access to the computer lab for an entire school year.

McNally was upset that the school’s administration would suggest that his CyberPatriot program would be responsible for such behavior.

“If I was any other teacher, the program would have been dead in that moment,” McNally said.

Rather than sitting back and losing an entire year of competition, McNally found other locations that would host his CyberPatriot team. He partnered with two hotels in the area that allowed him free use of their conference rooms. The hotels even used their connections to local restaurants to have the six-hour competitions catered.

Not only did those connections get McNally and his team through a tough situation, they also helped spread the word about CyberPatriot in the community.

“Everything was free because people saw value in the program and wanted to support us,” McNally said. “We made this program continue no matter what obstacles were thrown our way.”

This period also saw a transition of CyberPatriot mentors from James Vahanian to cybersecurity engineers from AeroJet, a company GenCorp owned.

Those engineers pushed McNally’s students to learn even more about CyberPatriot and learn more outside the classroom, which made the program even stronger.

Community College Connection

McNally’s team went back into the classroom 2012 and continued building a successful program over the next few years. In 2014, he caught the attention of Steve Linthicum, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information Communication Technologies and Digital Media (ICT/DM) in the Orange County Region.

Linthicum was looking for people to help spread interest in the CyberPatriot program throughout the state as part of an effort to build a cybersecurity pathway from K-12 to college to industry. He was so impressed by what McNally was doing in northern California that he made him Greater Sacramento Region CyberPatriot Middle/High School Coordinator.

“Sean has been a valued resource and deserves most of the credit for making the program grow across the Region,” Linthicum said.

In that role, he visited schools throughout the region and helped teachers come on board as CyberPatriot coaches. He also represented the Sacramento region at ICT/DM meetings and events.

“My primary mission was to help other teachers not have to suffer through obstacles like I did in becoming a CyberPatriot coach,” McNally said. “I showed them the ropes, so to speak, on how to set up for competitions and provide rigorous training materials for the students to be self-taught, unless a mentor was found to implement the training.”

Teacher of the Year

As he became more involved in the CyberPatriot community, McNally’s peers encouraged him to apply for the Teacher of the Year awards that the Air Force Association gives to teachers who are making an impact in Aerospace or STEM disciplines.

In 2014, he was named the Claude Farinha Gold Rush Chapter #116 Teacher of the Year for secondary education. His application was then passed along to compete for Teacher of the Year in Northern California Area 1. He won that award and was invited to a banquet where the statewide Teacher of the Year would be chosen from three regional finalists.

As he sat in the banquet hall, McNally thought he would need to wait in suspense through the entire thing to find out whether or not he’d won. As it turns out, he received some good news early in the evening when he opened the event’s program.

“In that program was printed, ‘Sean McNally-Area 1 and State Teacher of the Year.’ I was surprised and grateful to learn that I had won,” McNally said.

Sean also won AFA State Teacher of the year again in 2015 and was on track to win again in 2016, but no one was selected that year.

Winning State Teacher of the Year made McNally eligible to apply for National Teacher of the Year, an award that’s given to one of the statewide winners each year. He didn’t win that award, but his application was so strong that he received the National Air Force Association’s Medal of Merit for his efforts in STEM education and his advocacy of the National Youth Cyber Education Program.

Looking Forward

With awards under his belt and a successful team at his high school, McNally has already achieved a lot in the Air Force Association’s National Youth Cyber Education Program.

He hopes to continue building on his outreach efforts as a California Cyberhub adviser. He’s also started the CyberPatriot Lecture series to provide regional training sessions for teams in need of a mentor.

IT professionals record lectures on topics like using Cisco Packet Tracker and finding vulnerabilities in Windows. Those lectures were held in person and recorded for distribution on YouTube. McNally now live streams his CyberPatriot Lecture series across the state using

No matter what comes his way, McNally will remain dedicated to doing whatever he can to advance cybersecurity education in California.

“I enjoy being part of a team of individuals who want to grow this program so that students can begin a pathway to a high wage-earning career someday,” McNally said. “My enthusiasm that comes out when I speak is well received by students; I have found a niche for myself and I like bringing a program to kids who enjoy it.”.



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The opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on experience while working side by side with Northrop Grumman cyber engineers helped shape Xie’s future. The MIT student embodies the many success stories that promise to unfold as CyberPatriot participants enter the workforce.

cyber workforce

California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (back row, center) recently recognized 14 cybersecurity competitors at the Rancho Bernardo campus, where the teams practice every Sunday with coach Paul Johnson, a cyber systems engineer in the Avionics and Tactical Networks operating unit at San Diego’s Rancho Carmel campus. Pictured are (front row, from left) Andrew Wang, Pranav Patil, and Daniel Chen; (back row, from left) Hannah Zheng, Shruti Verma, Emily Park, Akul Arora, Maienschein, Lily Hu, Alex Guo, Lucy Gao, and coach Johnson. (Not pictured: Kedwin Chen, Arushi Dogra, Anjali Patil, and Madeleine Tran.)

CyberPatriot is a national cyber education program run by the Air Force Association (AFA) and sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Foundation. Created to motivate students to choose careers in cybersecurity and other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, the program includes a national competition for middle and high schoolers, cyber camps, and even a cyber education initiative for students as young as kindergarteners. At CyberPatriot competitions, teams of students compete for points as they defend operating systems, networks, and servers against attack.

“Instead of keeping it academic, it’s important to show students the real-world implementation of software. CyberPatriot does that,” said Steven Richard, a Systems Engineering manager and Xie’s supervisor at San Diego’s Spectrum Center, in Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector. All CyberPatriot alumni who’ve worked for Richard as interns have been “phenomenal,” he said.

That isn’t surprising, given Northrop Grumman’s investment in CyberPatriot. The Foundation has given more than $10 million to the program since establishing a partnership with the AFA. Hundreds of Northrop Grumman employees donate their time as CyberPatriot mentors, event volunteers, and coaches, and the corporation has provided more than $350,000 in scholarship funds to CyberPatriot students since 2010, a time period in which the number of participating teams grew by 745 percent to 5,584.

The CyberPatriot recruiting effort has been remarkably successful atbridging the STEM gender gap. While most STEM programs report a female participation rate of about 12 percent, CyberPatriot participants nationally are 23 percent female, and Paul Johnson’s CyberPatriot teams consist of nearly 40 percent young women. This is driven by CyberPatriot’s strong presence of female mentors, fee waivers for all-female teams, and emphasis in monthly publications and social media on female participation.

“The beauty of CyberPatriot is that most students have little prior knowledge of cybersecurity, so there’s a steep learning curve for everyone, regardless of gender,” said Xie, who achieved perfect scores in Linux system hardening in record time at the national CyberPatriot competition while in high school. “The initial hesitation or judgment that girls feel when participating in most STEM competitions doesn’t exist with CyberPatriot. This allows girls to rapidly develop skills in computer science and math without feeling they’re behind their male counterparts.”

Johnson’s cyber teams’ successes are many. Just last month, five of his teams took top-three placements in the Middle School and Open Divisions during the national-level CyberPatriot State Round. Other accomplishments include state and national championship titles, top-five national placements, a top-three placement by an all-female team at the national-level State Round — followed by features on local TV and radio stations — and recognition of a female team member and Johnson by the National Center for Women & Information Technology.


Last school year, the members of coach Paul Johnson’s all-female cybersecurity team took home numerous honors from competitions at regional, state, and national levels, including placing third overall at the California Cyber Innovation Challenge. Pictured (from left) are Hannah Zheng, Anjali Pati, Lily Hu, coach Johnson, Arushi Dogra, Lucy Gao, Shruti Verma, Madeleine Tran.

California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein added to the accolades recently, presenting 14 young women and young men on Johnson’s teams with certificates of recognition from the California Legislature for competing at the California Cyber Innovation Challenge. Maienschein emphasized the value of the CyberPatriot program, volunteers like Johnson, and driven students, especially young women, in building the cyber workforce. 

“It’s important to have this level of community involvement in something that truly matters,” Maienschein said. “A lot of times our society focuses on sports, but what’s going to make more of a difference in all of our lives is the contributions that CyberPatriot competitors are going to make in much more important fields.”

(To read more about the CyberPatriot program and how you can contribute as a coach or mentor, click here.)



“Our CA-Cyberhub team wishes the best of success to all the teams representing California at CyberPatriot Nationals,” Woods said. “We are truly proud of the exemplary level of dedication and commitment given by all the teams competing this year, Wood said.

Five of the teams are part of the CyberAegis group coached by Paul Johnson, who said his program has grown tremendously in just a few years.

As soon as the national competition ended last year, Johnson and his students began to think about ways to improve for this year.

“I’m very fortunate to have such a sharp, determined group of high achievers,” Johnson said. “Every year all of the thousands of teams get better, and there are some teams who have been competing for many years. We keep improving our training and trying to stay on the leading edge of where vulnerabilities will be hidden next.”

Johnson said he’s hoping one of his five teams will take home a first-place finish this year, which would be a first for his program.

“There are a lot of highly talented teams coming to the National Finals, and I’m sure they’re going to work extremely hard to win,” he said. While we’ve come very close in the past, for the first time, we’ll be having an all-girls team there and I’m really hoping they can get a top-three finish.”

CyberPatrtiot X Nationals Finals will be held April 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore.

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