University Relations and Communications

COT computer systems students shine in North American competition

December 10, 2010



Bruce Brumley, College of Technology, 247-3081
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Two of the best Cisco networking students on the North American continent proved their mettle on Wednesday… from a coffee shop.


Thinking on their feet and improvising amid technology challenges, the Montana State University Billings students bested all but two teams in a Cisco Academy competition between U.S. and Canadian students. They not only demonstrated they could adjust on the fly like professionals, but also proved that small schools have big-time competitors. 


COT networking studentsKent Savage and Alandra Oukrop, both second-year students in the MSU Billings College of Technology’s Computer Systems Technology program, were preparing for an online international competition Wednesday morning when the university’s internet system went down. With less than an hour before the challenge was to start, the students went in search of a dependable public wireless network.


Hello, Barnes and Noble!


Just a few miles east of the Central Avenue COT campus, the book store’s coffee shop proved the perfect alternative location for the test, said Bruce Brumley, the faculty member who runs the CST program.


“When the internet went down and we didn’t know when it would be back up, they just grabbed their laptops and ran to Barnes and Noble,” Brumley said.


Undaunted, Savage and Oukrop linked in to the wireless system and were able to log into the site for the three-hour session. At the end of the session, the duo had nearly perfected a 100-question skills test and completed some Cisco technology-specific networking challenges. In the process they had bested all but two of 45 teams in the competition.


The third place finish is noteworthy, Brumley said, given the combined stress of internet problems and an international competition.

“It’s pretty darn good for a small school in Montana and our first time competing in this competition,” he said.


The Cisco Networking Academy NetRiders competition is designed as way for students to showcase their IT/networking skills and gain visibility among talent recruiters in the growing networking field.  The competition is organized by Cisco and tests students’ networking/IT skills through a series of online exams and simulation activities using Cisco Packet Tracer that cover Cisco Certified Network Administrator curriculum and material.


To date, over 16,000 Cisco Networking Academy students have competed in NetRiders events in over 80 countries across the globe.

Just a few weeks ago, Savage and Oukrop won the Montana competition and the right to represent the state in the international event.

Both students said that they enjoyed the experience mostly because it built on the foundation developed in hands-on classroom experience.


“The competition is a webinar-type format and a bit longer than our class sessions, but was fun,” Savage said, noting he and Oukrop felt well prepared for the state and international competitions. “Bruce knows his stuff.”


Both students will be completing their studies next spring and plan on taking the Cisco certification exams. They both said the competitions bolstered their knowledge and confidence.


“The more practice tests we get the better,” Savage said.


The computer systems technology program is one of a handful of programs in the Computer Technology area at the COT. The COT offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Systems Technology, an Associate of Science Plan of study in Networking and a one-year networking certificate. Students can also study Computer Programming & Application Development and Computer Desktop/Network Support.


For more information on the various computer programs at the COT, call 247-3000 or go online to


PHOTO ABOVE: MSU Billings College of Technology students Alandra Oukrop, front, and Kent Savage finished in third place this week in an international competition relating to Cisco networking technology skills. Both students will be graduating from the Computer Systems Technology program next spring.