By Alicia Banks
March 31, 2014, 3:26 p.m.
A team of tech-savvy students from North Hollywood High clinched the national championship this past weekend in Maryland at the CyberPatriot VI competition, which tests their cyber-security knowledge.
Composed of [HGM] 11th-graders, Team Azure -- Henry Birge-Lee, Isaac Kim, Jacob King, Issac Kim and Travis Raser -- beat out 11 other teams in the competition Friday in National Harbor, Md.
The win marks a first for the high school and Los Angeles Unified School District. Team "Cyber Knights" of Beach Cities Cadet Squadron 107 in San Pedro snagged first in the middle school division.
Team Azure's coach, computer science teacher Jay Gehringer, said the win was a surprise to him and the team.
"I thought winning was somewhere down the road from us, but not this year. This was our second time going to the national competition," Gehringer said.
Competitors home in on their cyber-defense knowledge to thwart attacks on computer systems and networks. They compete mostly by laptop.
About 1,600 teams from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada vied for a spot at nationals through qualifying and semi-final rounds.
Five other teams from North Hollywood High competed this year but fell short of the championship round. Team Azure sometimes trained 25 hours a week for CyberPatriot, Gehringer said. Cal Poly Pomona students, a professor and a systems engineer at networking-giant Cisco Systems helped the team prepare.
"It went way beyond anything I could teach them [in the classroom]," Gehringer said of preparations. "This was truly a community effort in many ways."
The event tested competitors' defense strategies, including frisking a mannequin for evidence in a cyber-crime and preventing a networking system breach.
Winners from the three divisions received nearly $50,000 in scholarships from Northrop Grumman, a global security company and competition sponsor. Each Team Azure member received $2,000, Gehringer said.
The CyberPatriot program is sponsored by the Air Force Assn., a nonprofit organization and supporter of the U.S. Air Force.