Federal Way students discuss STEM skills with Senate education panel

During a work session held Monday by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, students and instructors from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way told committee members about CyberPatriot, a nationwide program that partners students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills with the United States Air Force Association for a cyber-security competition.

Program representatives including students Brandon Noel, Spencer Walton and Devin Dawson, were invited to speak by state Sen. Joe Fain, who applauded CyberPatriot’s emphasis on STEM skills and for partnering local schools with postsecondary institutions.

“Programs like CyberPatriot prepare students for future success, both in college and in life,” said Fain. “Exposure to this level of work in high school will allow these students to participate in the 21st-century economy and fill the available STEM-related jobs here in Washington.

The program, available to high-school students, provides direct experience with the skills necessary for today’s job market, said Ret. Maj. Barry Jones, who serves as the advisor for the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Todd Beamer High and coach of its CyberPatriot teams.

“My co-instructor and I see the CyberPatriot program as a great way to improve upon the skills students already have, as well as open up some career and educational opportunities for them,” said Jones. “The first year we had one team, so we used a couple of computers; over time the participation grew and we were able to partner with DeVry University in Federal Way, which was a natural move to help expand our capabilities and opportunities for students.”

The CyberPatriot program was introduced to Fain by Lance Bleakley, a retired Air Force colonel and 47th District resident, who is president of the Seattle chapter of the Air Force Association. “Our goal is to get students involved in STEM programs before college, which allows us to bring students into the fold and provide them with high-quality career opportunities,” said Bleakley.

Karen Noel, parent of a Beamer senior, remarked that CyberPatriot has given her son a focus for the future. “It’s been an opportunity for my son to become involved in a specific area of interest that is up-and-coming in this day and age. This has been an amazing experience that has given him insight into other areas that he wouldn’t have otherwise had.”