Girls Go CyberStart Registration Now Open, Program Begins January 13
Governor Ned Lamont is encouraging young women in Connecticut high schools to explore the exciting, lucrative postsecondary pathways available in cybersecurity and computer science by participating in the 2020 Girls Go CyberStart program.
An initiative of the cybersecurity college SANS Institute, Girls Go CyberStart is a national online competition designed to inspire young women to discover the many career opportunities available in the field of cybersecurity and their aptitude for relevant, in-demand areas such as cryptography and digital forensics.
Participants will use the CyberStart game, which consists of an online series of challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles. The only thing schools need is a computer and an internet connection. To get started, schools must identify an advisor and then register their club. Participating students – and their teachers – do not need prior knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. It is free for all schools and students in grades 9 through 12.
Students will have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools. Last year in Connecticut, $6,950 in cash prizes and scholarships were awarded to players and their schools, and seven young women obtained the individual high game scores required to qualify them for $500 college scholarships.
Increasing access to high quality educational resources and closing the skills gap has been one of Governor Lamont’s top priorities. The governor said that strengthening workforce development training is critical to growing the economy and providing economic opportunity for all.
“Leading indicators show that by 2025, Connecticut’s economy will need 70 percent of workers to have received some kind of post-secondary training or education, and many of these jobs will be in digital skills – a sector of our economy that has historically been underrepresented by women,” Governor Lamont said. “Exposing students to technology from an early age is the best way to engage them in pursuing this field as a career, and that is why I encourage all high schools in Connecticut to consider participating in this program. We cannot allow our next generation of young women to be left out of this opportunity.”
“Through the work of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, our administration is actively working to expand career and educational opportunities for women and girls in Connecticut,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “We proudly support Girls Go CyberStart because it allows young women to explore computer science – one of the many high-paying fields currently dominated by men – and sets them up for career and economic success.”
Connecticut high schools where at least five young women in the Girls Go CyberStart Program master five or more of the challenges will win access to the full CyberStart game for themselves and up to 50 additional students, extending the competition to both male and female students for the remainder of the school year.
In 2019, the second year of Girls Go CyberStart in which Connecticut schools competed, the state finished top five in the country. A total of 1,039 young women from 81 high schools across the state competed – a 50 percent increase from the year prior. In addition:
· Six of the 81 high schools qualified for the national finals championship;
· The Connecticut state winner ranked 58th overall in the country; and
· Of the 81 participating high schools, 30 high schools had enough qualifying female students to win 50 game licenses for the male students in their schools, increasing the number of Connecticut participants to over 1880 students.
State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Miguel A. Cardona explained that this year, the state’s goal is to exceed the number of participants.
“With the support of innovative programs like Girls Go CyberStart, we are working with partners to design and evolve our college and career pathways to focus on preparing our students to compete for the high-tech, high-skill, and high-wage careers that will be available to them upon graduation,” Commissioner Cardona said. “This includes leveraging the opportunity presented by an increasing demand for workers in fields like cybersecurity by exposing more students to the foundations of computer science and STEM early on in their educations. Doing so will ensure our students and our state will be competitive in the technology-driven 21st century economy and positioned to lead the nation now and into the future.”
“This outstanding program will help shape our future leaders in the growing field of cybersecurity and prepare them for the jobs of the future,” Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said. “I encourage all young women to take advantage of this opportunity to engage in this fun and interactive platform.”
“Today, a small percentage of women are represented in technology fields and the pipeline for future female technologists is relatively low,” Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut, said. The organization has taken a hands-on approach in getting students in the state to compete. “As we enter the third year of participation in this national competition, we are taking important steps to expose Connecticut girls to exciting and also critically important careers that must be filled to provide safety and security to our nation.”
The United States Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) predicts that computer science-related jobs will be among the fastest growing and highest paying over the next decade, with computer and information technology occupations projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Since the inception of Connecticut’s Computer Science Advisory Group in 2014, the group has worked closely with SDE to craft the State Board Education’s (SBE) Computer Science Position Statement, prepare the Connecticut Computer Science Standards for adoption, and create the Computer Science Implementation Guidelines. To better assist students in building the relevant knowledge and skills necessary in the digital age, the SBE adopted the CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards and the ISTE Standards in 2018. Governor Lamont and the SDE will continue to work with multiple partners to ensure the development of the Connecticut Computer Science Plan and the implementation of goals and strategies including providing standards for certifying computer science teachers and creating a computer science endorsement by July 1, 2020.
For this year’s competition, the National Science Foundation announced it would provide a grant to enable Girls Go CyberStart to become a resource for all 11,000 computer science teachers in the United States. Dubbed “Cyber Encounters,” it supports the national and state Computer Science Teachers Associations and the national #CSforAll program to provide teacher development for computer science teachers so they can learn about and gain confidence in introducing cybersecurity to their students.
How to Participate
Registration for Girls Go CyberStart opened on December 2, 2019, and the competition begins January 13, 2020. To register, visit www.girlsgocyberstart.org. Additional data on teacher development programs can be found here. To view examples of the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit go.joincyberstart.com.