Meet the team
Here's a fun fact about Team Mensa. Did you know the team members belong to 6 different Sydney, Canberra & Queensland schools? Coach Ronald Yu refers to the student team as "the heroes behind the screens" and says:
"Ayden Bottos (St. Patricks Marist College, NSW) is our leader. He demonstrated outstanding leadership through the competition and a willingness to help the younger team members learn.
"Elenor Craven (St Catherines School, NSW) is the team captain. She developed a strategy and followed it through from planning to execution. I am sure she will be a great leader in the future.
"Adam Fowler (Normanhurst Boys High School, NSW) is a great collaborator with an impressive knowledge of Windows servers. Adam is currently developing a cybersecurity club to promote cyber education at his school.
"Anica Wong (Abbotsleigh School, NSW) is a skilled researcher. She is patient and learns new skills quickly.
"Nicholas Lau (Anglican Church Grammar School, QLD) is a quick learner, with suitable corrections and rapid feedback to the team.
"Chi Lok YU (Forrest Primary School, ACT) has enormous potential and complements other teammates' strengths. He grew tremendously throughout the competition.
"Then onto "the heroes behind heroes". Thank you to our team mentors, James Davies from Sydney, Sam Lau from Brisbane, Frank Wu from Adelaide, and Andy Wong from Canberra for their great training and mentorship."
What is CyberTaipan?
Northrop Grumman presents CyberTaipan in partnership with CSIRO Digital Careers, sponsored by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). It is an annual online competition for high school-aged students in Australia with an interest in — or willingness to learn about — cyber security, defensive countermeasures, and securing virtual networks.
Throughout several rounds of competition, teams of high school students work through a set of virtual images that represent different operating systems. Teams receive points to find and fix cyber security vulnerabilities, strengthen systems, and maintain critical services. After two 6-hour competition rounds, the top 10 teams progress to a National Final. Students may compete face-to-face with their peers or virtually as a geographically dispersed team.
The winning team members each won a $1000 gift voucher and the opportunity to participate in CSIRO's Virtual Work Experience program.
Learning from the past
Team Mensa participated in the 2020 CyberTaipan challenge and took second place. So, when it came time to prepare for the 2021 competition the mentors and coach decided to change their competition tactics. Sam says, "We focused on a train-the-trainer approach, which means that as our students learn a skill, they simultaneously learn how to teach that skill to other students. This approach has worked well for learning within our team. Additionally, Ellie and Ayden have participated in CyberTaipan for two years while Adam has participated since the pilot in 2018. They have a wealth of experience that can be shared with our 3-newer team members."
During the 2021 challenge, the team consistently achieved high scores for both round 1 and round 2, but the final round proved more challenging. "Honestly, I am glad that our team members experienced a difficult challenge as it is indicative of real-life. You can't predict what challenges you will face, and it's okay if you don't consistently achieve the highest scores for everything," says Ronald.
Together everyone achieves more
"The final contained 3 Linux images - this was one of our biggest challenges. In our team, members are typically focused on a specific operating system which means we have a varying degree of competency in Linux. So, our strategy was to have Ayden, the most experienced in Linux, mentor and oversee the rest of the team throughout the day. I believe his mentorship played a big part in us winning the final round," says Ellie.
As a group with its members scattered across Australia, Team Mensa is no stranger to the challenges faced by remote collaboration, managing time zone differences, and technical issues. But these obstacles didn't deter the team - they believe it improved their communication and teamwork.
You don't have to be an expert to get involved
The CyberTaipan experience is so much more than a cybersecurity competition. It's about mental stimulation. It's about meeting like-minded students, making friends, and becoming part of a community. And it's about students challenging themselves and discovering their passions!
So, what does it take to get involved in CyberTaipan? The good news is if you are a student, you don't need a background in IT or cybersecurity to join CyberTaipan. It also doesn't matter what high school year level you are in, or which school you attend. If you are a student who is interested in cybersecurity and willing to learn (and can type), the coaches and mentors are ready to help you develop your skills.
Anica expanded, "I would say if you are interested but are unsure whether or not you'd enjoy it, then definitely have a go. And even if you're in it and realize it's not something that interests you, it is a great way to develop friendships and teamwork skills. But you'll never know unless you try."