Central Tech Celebrates Oklahoma Cup Achievements

Drumright, Oklahoma – Central Tech announced the winners of the esteemed Oklahoma Cup competition at an award ceremony sponsored by the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA), Gerrity Chapter 215 on Thursday, March 28, 2024. In addition, this prestigious event celebrated the remarkable achievements of Oklahoma winners in the StellarXplorers and CyberPatriot competitions and shined a spotlight on the state’s escalating talent in technology and innovation. 

Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Chad Raduege, recently appointed as the inaugural executive director of the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute (OCII) at The University of Tulsa, was the keynote speaker for the evening.

In a heartfelt address to cyber security students, Raduege underscored the essence of finding one’s calling in the rapidly evolving field of network security and STEM. “Purpose and passion are pretty important. You want to find something that you are inspired to wake up to every day,” Raduege remarked, emphasizing the joy of engaging in work that motivates daily enthusiasm. Highlighting the sector’s dynamic nature, he added, “This business of network security and STEM changes rapidly and you’re going to be a lifelong learner.”

Congratulations to the post-secondary Oklahoma Cup 2nd place team, Central Technology Center CTD-21. (L to R) Brandon Warnock; Brice Banta; Colton Drummond; Darel Long; Ryan Chestnut; Nick Gaunt, Coach; Dustin Ford, Coach, Not Pictured
Congratulations to the high school CyberPatriot 1st place team, Central Technology Center – Team 1. (L to R) Syarrah Martinez; Jesus Roura; Tristan Sixkiller; Ryder Edwards; Nick Gaunt, Coach; Connor Lollis; Dustin Ford, Coach, Not Pictured

Raduege further categorized students’ motivations into three distinct “zones” of importance for entering the cyber security field: Firstly, the dual flags of the USA and Oklahoma symbolize being part of something greater than oneself. Secondly, the reference to Metallica’s 1984 “Ride the Lightning” album signifies finding one’s passion in technology. Lastly, quoting the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money,” Raduege pointed out the lucrative potential of cyber security careers, advocating for the pursuing passion and ensuring financial stability.

The banquet concluded with awards and recognitions for the first through third place winners of CyberPatriot – Open Division, Service Division, and Middle School Division; Oklahoma Cup – High School Division, Adult Division, and Middle School Division; StellarXplorers, and StellarXplorers National Qualifier.

“These competitions are more than just contests; they are a proving ground for the innovative minds that will lead our nation’s technological future,” says Nick Gaunt, Network Security & Administration (NSA) instructor at Central Tech.

The Oklahoma Cup, born from the CyberPatriot program initiated in 2009, quickly evolved thanks to Oklahoma Career Tech teachers’ involvement. Designed to enhance local cybersecurity education, it transitioned from in-person training to a widespread, competitive event with a digital scoring system. By 2023, it boasted over 400 participants from 84 teams, reflecting its significant growth and the increased interest in cybersecurity among students and educators across Oklahoma. 

“Oklahoma Cup is an interactive tool for students. It helps serious teams prepare for CyberPatriot while also providing casual teams the opportunity to learn important subjects in a fun and competitive environment,” said Dustin Ford, another NSA instructor.

Kent Burris, superintendent of Central Tech adds, “Our students’ achievements in these arenas highlight the exceptional caliber of education and mentorship at Central Tech.”

StellarXplorers inspires and attracts high school students to pursue careers in STEM, particularly in the aerospace sector. This educational initiative emphasizes critical thinking, teamwork, and the practical application of science and mathematics through space system design and operation challenges. Its necessity stems from the growing demand for skilled professionals in the aerospace industry and STEM fields. By engaging students in hands-on, competitive scenarios, StellarXplorers plays a crucial role in preparing the next generation for the challenges of tomorrow’s space exploration and defense needs.

Brian Babcock, NSA instructor, emphasized the role of such events in “preparing students not just for careers, but for leadership roles in technology and cybersecurity.”

In its sixteenth year, the CyberPatriot competition is vital to the information technology sector because it addresses the urgent need for skilled cybersecurity professionals. By engaging students in real-world cybersecurity challenges, the competition fosters interest in cybersecurity careers and develops the practical skills needed to protect digital infrastructure. This prepares a new generation of cybersecurity experts to counter evolving cyber threats, ensuring a robust defense for critical information systems and networks essential to national and global security.

The event was full of celebration, inspiration, and underscored Central Tech’s commitment to excellence in technology education and its role in nurturing the skills and talents necessary for success in a rapidly evolving global landscape.

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