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Drone Wars Enhance Students Cyber Skills
by U.S. Army Steven Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber)
July 6, 2019

“With great power comes great responsibility,” is an oft-quoted phrase attributed to Uncle Ben, the guardian and father figure for Peter Parker, better known as Spider Man.

Soldiers from the 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber), working with recruiters from the Hazleton Army Recruiting Station in Pennsylvania, taught cyber-related skills to the students attending a Drone Wars competition hosted by Bloomsburg University March 29-30, 2019 to educate future generations about cyber and the responsibility which comes with this knowledge.

Students from West Side Career and Technology Center, Kingston, Pennsylvania, work together successfully to hack a drone as Sgt. Grant Ward, a cyberspace operations specialist assigned to the Cyber Solutions Development Detachment, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), watches during a Drone Wars competition hosted by Bloomsburg University March 29-30, 2019, to educate future generations about cyber and the responsibility which comes with this knowledge. (U.S. Army photo by Steven Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade)
Students from West Side Career and Technology Center, Kingston, Pennsylvania, work together successfully to hack a drone as Sgt. Grant Ward, a cyberspace operations specialist assigned to the Cyber Solutions Development Detachment, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), watches during a Drone Wars competition hosted by Bloomsburg University March 29-30, 2019, to educate future generations about cyber and the responsibility which comes with this knowledge. (U.S. Army photo by Steven Stover, 780th Military Intelligence Brigade)

Staff Sgt. Gregory Guido, an Army recruiter from the Hazleton Army Recruiting Station, is the organizer and the genesis for the Drone Wars event. Guido is a 35N, signals intelligence analyst, who previously served with the 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber), 780th MI Brigade (Cyber), headquartered at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

“I wanted to bring something from my experience in the Army into the recruiting world,” said Guido. “Initially I wanted to bring out the drone wars event to local high schools, but I realized I had a pretty large area to cover, two different counties, about two dozen schools, so I wound up linking up with Bloomsburg University to host the event here and in this way we can get a hold of the local high schools and surrounding colleges to participate and make this the home base for the annual Drone Wars event.”

The Drone Wars competition was hosted by the Department of Mathematical and Digital Sciences at Bloomsburg University in conjunction with the U.S. Army. The goal of the competition was to take over a Wi-Fi connected drone and fly it through an obstacle course in the shortest amount of time.

“This is the second year of Drone Wars and we can see how this STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program has expanded and grown in popularity,” said Guido. “There will be 25 to 30 kids showing up per class today, and a ‘deadline’ class tomorrow, right before the drone hack competition.”

“Last year Hughesville High School (Hughesville, Pa.) won the event, they hacked into a drone and flew it through three obstacles in the fastest time,” remarked Guido. “They set that bar high and so who is going to be the school to beat this year?”

1st Lt. Richard Shmel, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jaramillo, and Sgt. Grant Ward, are cyber Soldiers, specifically embedded software developers, assigned to the Cyber Solutions Development Detachment, 781st MI Battalion (Cyber), 780th MI Bde., headquartered at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The three Soldiers were asked to provide the training during the Drone Wars event due to their cyber background, as well as to discuss what it takes to become a cyberspace operations Soldier and the benefits of an Army career.

“The reason we’re doing this is to educate future generations about cyber, get them exposure and experience, get them interested about cyber and hopefully get them interested in the Army and draw them into our force because we have to build out the future,” said Jaramillo. “The Internet of Things impacts everything we do today, everything’s interconnected, and understanding the underlying concepts and consequences of our actions with devices, protocols in place, can lead to better security.”

As the cyber Soldiers were teaching high school and college students about the networking and Wi-Fi basics, Wi-Fi hacking, and drone attack methods, the predominant underlying message is that with this knowledge comes ‘great’ responsibility.

“Now a days when you go out everyone has some type of computing platform on them that is transmitting data in general,” added Guido. “This proliferation of data and interconnected platforms is an emerging technology that should be understood by people in general. Additionally, it’s going to continue to be a growth field that the Army needs to continue to invest in order to increase both the number of individuals doing the work and depth of knowledge that each individual possess.”

The winning team of this year’s second annual Drone Wars competition in the open category was Dante Cicco, Dante Zitello, and Jacob McMahon of team ROCK from Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, and the winner in the high school category was Adam Frederick, Matt Jones, and Gage Wilison of team Wi-Fi Pirates from West Side Career and Technology Center, Kingston, PA.

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