CSU approved for GenCyber Grant to introduce cybersecurity to middle school students

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August 30, 2022

The National Security Agency (NSA) grant will position Columbus State University to increase awareness of cybersecurity and STEM career opportunities among sixth- through eighth-grade girls. Funding through the NSA’s GenCyber ​​Grant program will benefit students in Columbus and neighboring communities while increasing the underrepresentation of women in these scientific fields

The “Increasing Cybersecurity Awareness for Middle School Girls Through GenCyber ​​Outreach, Games and Storytelling” project focuses on increasing cybersecurity awareness among middle and junior high school students with little or no cyber knowledge. The program seeks to broaden their career interests and cybersecurity knowledge, as well as foster their leadership skills as cybersecurity ambassadors.

Faculty members of CSU’s TSYS Center for Cyber ​​Security Dr. Jianhua Yang, Ph.D. Linqiang Ge and center director Patrick Aiken, as well as Harris County Science and Technology Center teacher Chris Lovelock, are involved in this project. Yang explained that focusing their support on female students will ultimately contribute to building a diverse workforce along with promoting the ethics of proper online etiquette among participating high school students.

“There are fewer and fewer women interested in computer science, and even fewer women working in the cybersecurity industry nationally,” he said. “The goal of this project is to educate these girls about what cyber security is and how it affects our daily lives.”

Students involved in this program will attend a one-week summer camp in 2023. The camp will be held at CSU’s Cyber ​​Range — a “live-fire” training ground where CSU students learn and where industry professionals can also practice live-fire exercises that address over 50,000 version of the malware on an exact replica of the company’s network. The scope – the same equipment once used to train the Israel Defense Forces to protect the nation of Israel from cyber-attacks – can simulate cyber intrusions ranging from a simple Internet takedown to a full-blown ransomware attack.

While working at CSU’s cyber range, participating students will learn the fundamentals of cyber security, apply those fundamentals along with good ethics and online etiquette to their internet surfing, and return to their schools to build on those foundations in Cyber ​​Security Clubs.

Yang hopes the students will ultimately be science and technology ambassadors among their middle school and junior high school peers as they are impressed with the importance of cybersecurity awareness and technology careers.

“Through this program, we hope that some of our promising female technology leaders will be inspired to continue their education here at Columbus State’s cybersecurity program,” Yang mentioned. “This would certainly contribute to the advancement of women and minorities in the field of science and technology.”

To learn more about CSU’s cybersecurity program, visit https://www.columbusstate.edu/turner/cybersecurity-center/.

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