University Relations and Communications

COT computer networking student shines in North American competition

December 2, 2011


Bruce Brumley, Computer Systems Technology, 247-3081


By Dan Carter


Billings student among top in the U.S. for second year in a row


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Ambrose Taylor was in a zone.


Focused. Driven. Intent. All those adjectives and more could have described the 34-year-old as he worked his way through a series of computer networking challenges last week in the lab at the Montana State University Billings College of Technology. 


Ambrose Tayler with instructor BrumleyIf a Harley had been driven through the halls at that time, Taylor would not have noticed.


It was that kind of zone.


A second-year student in the College of Technology’s Computer Systems Technology program, Taylor was working on the last of his challenge questions for an international competition held online. As part of the Cisco NetRiders IT Skills Challenge held Friday, Dec. 2, he was given 90 minutes to get the last section done and was determined to test himself.


“I either know it or I forgot it,” he said during an earlier break. “Sometimes it just comes to me.”


Later that afternoon, Taylor found out he finished fifth among 50 competitors in the United States and Canada. He was the only American competitor west of the Mississippi to finish in the top 10.


It was also the second year in a row where MSU Billings students finished at the top of the list of North American competitors. Last year’s team of Kent Savage and Alandra Oukrop finished third.


“I am happy with my score,” he said. “Being fourth in the nation and fifth in North America is pretty good.”


Bruce Brumley, the computer systems technology instructor at the COT, said Taylor was determined to take on the North American challenge almost immediately after the contest last year.


Ambrose Taylor working in the computer lab“For him, it’s a personal thing. He’s pushing himself to see where he’s at,” Brumley said.


The Cisco NetRiders competition is designed as a 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.


The skills are those in demand as companies invest millions of dollars in internet-protocol phone systems, wireless networks, data centers and telepresence systems. 


Just a few weeks ago, Taylor and a handful of his classmates took part in the Montana competition and the right to represent the state in the international event. 


Taylor, who says he enjoys the networking complexities presented by the Cisco challenge, is self-confident and direct in his approach in labs and discussions. You would never know his path to a degree at the MSU Billings COT was fairly circuitous.


He dropped out of high school when he was 16 and did some general wandering about until a few years ago. He worked for a friend who had an auto body shop, but when that business had to close because of personal reasons, he found himself at a crossroads.


He looked into the networking and computer systems technology program at the MSU Billings COT. He had an affinity for computers and says he “likes to figure things out,” so the program was a good fit.


“The best part is it’s a big huge complicated puzzle,” Taylor said. “It keeps me interested.”


For Brumley, the skills demonstrated by Taylor this year and his colleagues last winter prove the MSU Billings COT program is on par with any program in the country. And the lab, which includes state-of-the-art equipment, helps students maneuver through “real-life” scenarios.


“This is as close to a real system as you can get,” Brumley said, noting the lab allows students to work their way through a variety of challenges. “Anything they want to do, they can do it.”


With continued success, Brumley said, students in Montana may soon be tapped for internships with Cisco systems in California.

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


PHOTOS ABOVE: MSU Billings College of Technology student Ambrose Taylor, left, and computer systems technology instructor Bruce Brumley are shown in the COT’s networking lab. Taylor finished fifth in North America last week in a Cisco IT/networking challenge. Below, Taylor prepares to do one of the 90-minute tests for the competition.