Mayor's Cyber Cup event
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Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers talks with Bill Tomeo, lead cybersecurity instructor at Odyssey Early College and Career Options. Photo by Debbie Kelley

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Imagine if you were in a self-driving car and someone hacked into its computerized navigation controls and ran the car off the road.

It will be up to Generation Z to make sure that doesn’t happen, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told high school students Tuesday at Odyssey Early College and Career Options.

“The internet is expanding every day, and it depends on adequate cybersecurity,” he said, adding that an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 cybersecurity jobs need to be filled in Colorado Springs.

Suthers kicked off the inaugural Mayor’s Cyber Cup competition for high school students throughout El Paso County.

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Students are challenged to create a 30-second public service announcement video that explains why cyber safety is important in one of three categories: online safety, cyberbullying or social media safety.

They’re topics familiar to all teens, said Bill Tomeo, Odyssey’s lead cybersecurity teacher.

“Do you have to be a video expert? No. You can be creative and have some fun,” he said. “This will be by students and for students. Who knows how better to influence their peers than you?”

The deadline to submit a video is Sept. 1. More information is at https://bit.ly/ 2WMcxtg .

Winning videos in each category and an overall Best of Show will be announced at the National Cybersecurity Center’s annual symposium Sept. 19-20 at The Broadmoor hotel.

“The intent is to open the eyes of lots of students, who may not be involved in technology, about how cybersecurity plays a role in their lives as well as their careers,” Tomeo said.

Many students say they’ll enter from Odyssey, a Colorado Springs District 11 school on the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus.

“Not a lot of teenagers get into this stuff because they think it’s a lot of work,” Odyssey sophomore Alexandria Umana said. “I like the fact that this field is constantly growing. It’s like ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ You spin and don’t know where it’ll land. We’re decades away from knowing where it will stop.”

Junior Samuel Vargas is thinking about creating a video. He’s leaning toward the theme of social media safety.

“There are a lot of bad people in the world,” he said, “so I want to help people make sure everything’s fine with what they’re doing.”

The National Cybersecurity Center, headquartered in Colorado Springs, is sponsoring the competition. The center provides training and services to public officials, business executives and the workforce.

Suthers said local companies often call him, saying they need young cybersecurity workers.

The city has more than 130 cybersecurity-related businesses, according to Jonathan Steenland, chief operating officer at the national center.

Colorado Springs is marching toward its goal of being one of the top three hubs for cybersecurity in the nation, Suthers said.

“We’ve got this synergy between the military, academia and the private sector happening,” he said. “It’s a great field to be in.”

Odyssey sophomore Brendan Fields said he’ll probably participate in the contest.

“It’s a good way to get a bunch of people interested and bring traction to cybersecurity,” he said.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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