Freeport students to compete in cybersecurity championship

Four girls from Freeport High School have discovered their hidden talent for cybersecurity this year in the Girls Go CyberStart competition, a national contest designed to bridge the cybersecurity skills gap in the U.S.

Last week Dena Arrison, Leah Rusecki, Taylor Harris and Rachel Packard found out their score qualified them for the National Championship for Girls Go CyberStart 2019, according to a news release by team adviser David Smail, a science teacher at Freeport High.

Rusecki, a sophomore at FHS, likes the format of the competition, saying, “(H)aving the chance to explore computer technology outside of regular classes is a great opportunity for us. Solving the cybersecurity puzzles and challenges has been really interesting.”

According to Halie Lyons, a science and engineering teacher and adviser to Freeport’s Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) club, the school has been actively encouraging girls to get involved in science and engineering electives for several years. 

“Girls need experiences like this to gain confidence and know that they have what it takes to follow STEM-related career paths,” Lyons said.

Over 10,000 girls across 27 states took part in the first stage of the program, CyberStart Assess. At the end of that round, 6,600 of those girls moved on to take part in the second round, CyberStart Game.

CyberStart Game pitted teams against a series of increasingly difficult cybersecurity challenges to win points for their school; FHS was the only Maine team of 120 teams nationwide that competed in an online Capture the Flag competition June 5-7. 

Girls need to be at least 13 years old and high school to qualify. The program awards winning participants with cash prizes of up to $1,000 and college scholarships of $500. There are three stages to the program: CyberStart Assess, CyberStart Game and The National Championship for Girls Go CyberStart 2019.

Retired scientists help science project take off 

A retired physicist and two chemists from Maine School Science Volunteers joined Science Club students at Brunswick Junior High School to build and launch rockets at an after-school activity on June 4.

The paper stomp rockets were then launched almost 100 feet, after which polymer chemist/engineer John Ruid helped students use a special angle-meter to measure the launched rocket’s height.

“Today we are all rocket scientists,” joked MSSV’s Winnie Chan, a retired chemistry professor who lives in Harpswell. Chan and Ruid were joined by physicist Alan Burns.

MSSV is actively recruiting more retired scientists and engineers to promote more hands-on STEM education throughout the Midcoast region.

For information about how to volunteer, see and

Local scientists volunteered at Brunswick Junior High School to teach students about the physics and chemistry involved in building and launching a rocket. From left are physicist Alan Burns, chemist Winnie Chan and polymer chemist John Ruid with students Theo Stone and Isaac Oleksyk-Harnois.

Brittany Coyne, front row from left, Kylee Spainhower, and Zebulon Piasecki, and Kylie Forest; Ryan Wyman, top from left, Ryan Schroeder, and Mathias Richardson celebrated their graduation from Regional School Unit 1/Wiscasset Adult Education on May 16.