CLEARFIELD -- The Clearfield High School Junior ROTC is on quite a roll.
After four rounds of competition and nearly five months of preparation, the team has advanced to the finals of CyberPatriot III, the nation's largest high school cyber defense competition.
The team advanced by winning a two-day semifinal round of the competition's All Service Division earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.
Led by JROTC senior instructor Kit Workman, the team includes five JROTC students -- Daniel Hargrave, Eric Takacs, Braxton Allen, Hunter Poe and Preston Boss.
Clearfield also won rounds in October, November and December and won the entire competition last year.
"We've been doing pretty well again this year," said Takacs, who serves as team captain and was on last year's championship squad. "We have more technical skill this year, but we need to work a little bit on teamwork. That was our main strength last year."
As part of the competition, the students learn to fight a new and different military battle.
Instead of securing borders with guns and ammunition, team members work to secure computer network systems with firewalls and passwords.
Workman said the students had little to no knowledge about cyber defense before joining the team, but are now learning valuable skills.
"The things they are learning are really becoming a priority in today's world," he said. "Our team captain from last year now has an internship with Northrop Grumman based on what he learned."
Hackers can disrupt and gather confidential information from hospitals, banks, 911 services and other sensitive entities.
Workman said that, in theory, one person sitting at a computer thousands of miles away could remotely control a network of computers.
"Cyber security is a huge deal, not only in the military world," he said, "but really in all areas of industry."
Workman said Dave Boswell, from Sabioso Inc., a software development company, has helped the team learn cyber defense skills.
CyberPatriot is the premier high school cybersecurity competition in the nation produced by the Air Force Association, a nonprofit organization headquartered near Washington, D.C.
The competition was designed to give students a hands-on learning experience in cybersecurity and to inspire students to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
The finals in the competition will be held April 2 at the Pentagon.