Starting a cyber team involves hard work and dedication under normal circumstances. New coaches need to make arrangements with their schools, recruit students, and begin building community partnerships.

Now imagine trying to do all of those things while your community is recovering from devastating wildfires.

That’s the situation computer science teacher Edwin Kang found himself in last fall, but he did not let it stop him from creating several new teams at Ukiah High School.

The Ukiah area was impacted by the Mendocino Complex Fire in August 2018, and then again by the Camp Fire in October 2018.

“There was still smoke around when we came back to school the first week … it really lowered morale and made it hard to get back into the swing of things,” Kang said.

Over time though, Kang began to revive his existing robotics teams and see the potential to expand into cyber competitions. Ukiah High School is excited to compete in the California Mayors Cyber Cup for the first time later this month.

To help with his new teams, Kang is turning to a seemingly unlikely source.

“I’m getting the football coach to help me with a second team,” Kang said. “He has very little technical background, but he but knows how to coach and wants to work with kids as much as he can.”

Originally from Los Angeles, Kang has worked at Ukiah High School since 2014. Before that, he taught computer science at nearby Potter Valley High School. He became interested in cybersecurity after the Mendocino County Office of Education asked him to teach a course on “hacking the news” following the 2016 presidential election.

His passion had always been robotics, but he quickly saw the demand for quality cybersecurity education and learned about the resources available through the California Cyberhub to make it happen.

“Cyber education needs to be developed in middle school high school, and even a basic understanding in elementary school,” Kang said. “It’s becoming more and more relevant every day for all of us, and it’s becoming easier than ever to learn through things like the IT fundamentals program.”

Kang spends summers teaching at SMASH Academy, a STEM-intensive residential college prep program for students from underserved communities. SMASH Academy has locations across the country; Kang teaches at UC Berkeley.

“I live with them for five weeks in the summer and travel with them throughout the Bay Area,” Kang said.  “At the end of the summer, students leave with a portfolio they can use for scholarships, internships, and jobs.”

Kang remains passionate about robots and continues to advise Ukiah High School’s robotics team, which visited Google’s headquarters earlier this year. Moving forward, he sees opportunities for collaboration between robotics and cyber competitions.

“I am deeply passionate about fostering the next generation of responsible and ethical digital citizens,” Kang said. “Everything we’re doing in STEM, cyber, and robotics is part of that.”