Go (Cyber) Tigers: SPC Cyber Tigers in Cyber Battle in Dallas

October 31, 2018

Public Information Officer


Representing community college cybersecurity education within a U.S. cybersecurity workforce hub that is perennially number two in scale following America’s National Capitol Region, St. Philip's College cybersecurity students travel, learn and compete rigorously during the 2018 Texas Security Awareness Week Conference Nov. 2-3 at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science of The University of Texas at Dallas

The annual TexSAW event for college-level students in computer security rewards students by immersing them in security concepts to expand their knowledge of cybersecurity and related career opportunities. The St. Philip’s College team for the 2017 edition of TexSAW included cybersecurity students Yurlin Hernandez, Obinna Ebikam, Anthony Mora, Marcos Manriquez and Johnathan Acosta. For 2018, the college team led by first-year faculty advisor Caroline Mora will consist of team members Estrella Torres, Miguel Gonzales, Jose Garza, Eduardo Posadas, Ronald Williams, returning team member Jonathon Acosta and Donyeill Morehead. Mora also led the college’s first summer coding camp for females in 2018.

As one of the nation's larger computer science departments with 1,600 undergraduate and 1,700 graduate students, the computer science program at UT Dallas originated in a college with a unique history of starting as a graduate institution first. St. Philip's College students were the only student competitors from a two-year college when they celebrated five years of participation in the 2017 version of the event. But they were far from the first from St. Philip’s College to experience the TexSAW opportunity at some point in their cybersecurity academic pursuit. St. Philip's College alumni who competed in previous events include 2013 college cybersecurity alumnus Ashton Drake Giddings, who was a first-place team member for transfer college Texas A&M-San Antonio in the 2015 TexSAW Capture the Flag competition. Drake Giddings was also one of the college’s original CIMA Project Undergraduate Research Program students. In 2016, Drake Giddings returned to the college to give back as a peer mentor for the college’s CIMA program students.

Hernandez, Ebikam, Mora, Manriquez and Acosta attended workshops on event day one. Web security. Cryptography. And ethical hacking and exploitation. Freshly-learned skills were applied in a Capture the Flag cybersecurity competition in 2017. 

Team takeaways included being thankful for enrolling in an innovative cybersecurity college before entering the job market in the nation's second-largest cybersecurity cluster after Washington, D.C.

2017 team member Ebikam was one of a record five St. Philip's College alumni and current students whose excellent performance earned jobs with Accenture Federal Services following internships with the firm in San Antonio.

The road trip to Dallas was a productive professional development opportunity for the students, explained 2017 team faculty sponsor and Reynaldo Sánchez, Jr. For 2018, he’s reflecting on success and the challenges this 2018 team has been preparing for as well. 

“St. Philip’s College’s cyber tigers have been participating in the competition in Dallas with six-to-eight students per year since 2013,” said Sanchez. “Those experiences have provided our students the opportunity to network with students interested in cybersecurity from UT Dallas as well as other universities from across the nation. Over the years, competing St. Phillip’s College cybersecurity student teams have enhanced their fundamental team and individual hands-on skills in the cybersecurity topics of web security, reverse engineering, and penetration testing. The Cyber Tigers who have relentlessly competed against top universities in the past have dominated the cybersecurity competition by placing first place. The current Cyber Tigers continue to move mountains as they diligently prepare for the eighth annual Texas Security Awareness Week event,” said Sanchez.

In 2012, the cyber equivalent of the FEMA Corps program for volunteers who could serve as trained augmentees in the event of a disaster was established for students at St. Philip’s College to provide community service and learning opportunities beyond their campus’ computer networks. The Cyber Tigers club of nearly first responders was Texas’ first model of volunteer cyber first-responders of its type at the community college level. The students in this cyber-club are enrolled in the college’s online/on-campus network security administrator academic program that offers students two National Security Agency certifications upon completion of the course.

At any time of the day, St. Philip’s College faculty are building the marketable knowledge of 6,000 online students worldwide, offering consumers two Associate of Arts, eight Associate of Applied Science, one Associate of Science and 10 Certificate of Completion programs 100 percent online, including one Associated of Applied Science in Information Technology Cybersecurity Specialist degree program online program for eight years. As one of the city’s first National Security Agency-approved two-year college cybersecurity programs where students who earn federal certifications of training have been prepared for entry-level jobs, since 2011 the program has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by both the NSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Among all comparable U.S. online associate degree-level cybersecurity programs, consumer education organization TheBestSchools.org ranks St. Philip's College’s Associated of Applied Science in Information Technology Cybersecurity Specialist degree program an unsolicited number eight in its The Best 8 Online Associate in Network Security Programs rankings.

To learn more about life for the Cyber Tigers after college, see an image of Cyber Tiger alumnus Obinna Ebikam at Image 2 of the August 2017 report Apprenticeships expose East Side youth to tech jobs by San Antonio Express-News education reporter Alia Malik and staff photographer Billy Calzada and read about Ebikam in the 2017 college reportSPC Students Land Jobs following Internships with Cutting Edge IT Company.

To obtain information on St. Philip’s College information security and assurance degrees, certificates, certifications and center status, contact Haydar Thomas Sahin at hsahin@alamo.edu, 210-486–2486. (Archival images courtesy SPC and UT Dallas)