GenCyber's mission is to grow the number of students studying cybersecurity in the United States. The program includes summer camps across the nation designed for elementary, middle, and high school students, and teachers. The camps focus on engaging the learners with sound cybersecurity principles and teaching techniques.
The GenCyber program operates on 3 primary goals:
Camps are designed for students, teachers, or both students and teachers. All camps are free of charge for attendees. Some camps target specific populations (e.g. girls only).
The supply of cybersecurity professionals has fallen far short of demand, with some studies estimating the gap being as large as 600,000 professionals needed to meet the Nations demand. We hope to help turn that around.
In addition, cybersecurity is rarely taught in schools even within computer science classes. We hope to help change that by spurring best practices in cybersecurity pedagogy across content areas and development of curricula and lesson plans that can be used to infuse cybersecurity principles across many subject areas.
Cybersecurity is vital to the future of the United States, not just at the government level, but also at the industrial, economic, academic, and personal levels as well. It is critical that young students have a basic understanding of cybersecurity so that as they learn through their schooling and personal experiences, they can see how cybersecurity impacts all aspects of their lives, be it through social media, economic situations, or physical devices.
Our country is entering an era where it is likely that numerous household items, personal computing devices, and business systems will be connected “The Internet of Things”. In this rapidly evolving technology environment, everyone needs to be cognizant of cybersecurity. Where you are a NSA analyst, an accountant, an electrician, or a stay-at-home mom or dad, these devices will become increasingly important in our lives. We need both broad awareness of cybersecurity in the general population and experts in the field who can identify and mitigate vulnerabilities.
NSA already has numerous partnerships with universities around the nation to develop cybersecurity education at the collegiate level. See the NSA.gov/academia website for more information. The problem is that not enough young people are choosing to enter these programs out of high school. In essence, we need to encourage and inspire them at a younger age.
The risk of cyber attacks and intrusions continues to rise. People with cybersecurity skills are needed for the federal government, State and local governments, the military, private industry, nonprofits, and for individuals for their personal assets. Key industries such as financial, transportation, water, power, and others are critical to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens. They, in particular, need cybersecurity talent.
GenCyber began in 2014 with eight prototype camps. In 2015, our pilot year, it has expanded to 43 camps. The GenCyber program is actually modeled closely after a very successful language camp program - STARTALK - that NSA has supported since 2007.
StarTalk camps are intended to increase the interest in students to study less commonly taught languages (e.g., Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Korean) and to grow the instruction of these languages in primary school systems around the country. The StarTalk program began in 2007 and has been very successful in meetings its goals. GenCyber is leveraging the success of StarTalk by utilizing many of its principles and practices.
More information about StarTalk can be found at: www.startalk.umd.edu
There is very strong demand for GenCyber programs. We are projecting to have 120-150 camps in 2017. Our goal is to sponsor 200 camps by the year 2020, or perhaps even sooner, with camps in all 50 states.
To date, funding has been provided by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation.
NSA, as the creator of the GenCyber program, leads the development and management of the program. NSF has provided significant funding support. With program growth, we anticipate the need for additional program management support. In addition, Purdue University is providing independent performance measurements, and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) is seeking to catalogue current K-12 cybersecurity curricula as it exists in the nation today, with the goal of creating a clearinghouse of curriculum, lesson plans, etc. Finally, the Remotely Accessible Virtual Environment (RAVE) project provides infrastructure support to camps, to lessen the burden of building lab environments on each camp.
Universities, as well as non-profit, K-12 school systems, are eligible to receive GenCyber grants. In 2015, 29 universities were running GenCyber camps. Universities, in particular, have expertise in grant management and many are already engaged in preparing youth in careers in cybersecurity. GenCyber is often a natural outreach program for them.
All funding for GenCyber has been derived for existing programs, so no additional funds, i.e. budget increases, have been used to support the program.
Grants have been provided from several thousand dollars to over $100,000. This year, the average is approximately $85K per program.
During this year's pilot program, many of the universities that ran camps were schools designated as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense or Cyber Operations NSA designations. Virtually all had existing NSF cyber grants and GenCyber provided funding via supplemental grants to those existing grant vehicles.
For 2018, GenCyber will issue an announcement requesting proposals for 2018 GenCyber camps. Those matching closest to the criteria set in the grants will receive awards. Details (e.g., schedule, criteria, etc.) will be available at: www.gen-cyber.com.
The proposal period for those institutions and organizations that want to host a 2017 GenCyber camp closed at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on November 4th, 2016. The 2018 GenCyber Call for Proposals will be issued in Fall 2017.
The answer to both questions is no. All GenCyber camps must be offered to participants at no cost. Such expenses might create economic barriers for some prospective participants.
GenCyber camps may be offered at colleges, universities, public or private schools or school systems, or not-for-profit institutions.
A proposal must be submitted for each individual camp. Each proposal is evaluated independently against the criteria.
Programs may spend up to $100 per student of their grants funds on the purchase of technology items for students to take home with them after the camps.
Programs may spend up to $350 per teacher of their grant funds on the purchase of technology items for teachers to take home with them after the camps.
No. Providing prizes such as iPads or similar devices is not approved. The GenCyber camps are intended to be an educational/inspirational experience and competitions should not be the primary focus. Providing a gift of a nominal value is acceptable.