Gov. Doug Burgum announced the state’s participation in CyberStart America, an innovative, online cybersecurity competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and SANS Institute. The competition encourages high school students to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science with a chance to win prizes and scholarships. Registration is open and play begins today. The competition runs through Feb. 28, 2021.
In a pilot of CyberStart America last school year targeted to young women, 291 students from 21 North Dakota high schools participated and 12 reached the national finals. The state had the highest participation per capita two years in a row with teams from Bismarck Century, New Town, Fargo North, Grand Forks Red River, West Fargo Sheyenne and Williston qualifying for the national championships. With CyberStart America now open to boys as well as girls, North Dakota hopes to triple the number of students participating. A minimum of six scholarships will be awarded to North Dakota students.
“North Dakota’s statewide focus on computer science and cybersecurity education will open doors to exciting career paths in virtually every industry,” Burgum said. “CyberStart America gives parents and educators a no-cost, virtual opportunity to learn skills that are in demand nationwide and globally.”
The free program involves a series of online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents, solving cybersecurity-related puzzles and exploring topics such as codebreaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program can be assigned as part of homework, can form the basis of an extracurricular club, or students can try it on their own. Participating students and teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to take part. Everything they need can be learned in the game.
“Our students can win prizes and scholarship money from this contest, but most of all, it’s a way to have fun and make new friends who have similar interests,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s state school superintendent. “This competition focuses on finding solutions to problems, confronting intellectual challenges head-on, and seeing whether computer science and cybersecurity education is something a student wants to pursue as a possible career. I’m sure both our young men and young women will rise to the occasion.”
The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding scholarships worth a total of $2 million for use at any accredited college to 600 high-scoring students across the nation who participate this year. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.cyberstart.com/. Complete program details can be found at https://www.cyberstartamerica.org/. Participating students and schools are encouraged to share updates on social media with #BeCyberSmart.
North Dakota’s focus on computer science and cybersecurity education stems from the K-20W Initiative: a statewide, comprehensive approach to help students, and the state, compete in highly competitive, technology-driven industries. Code named “K-20W” to reflect every student from kindergarten through Ph.D. and workforce, the K-20W coalition is comprised of more than 40 public and private sector participants who share a goal of “Every Student. Every School. Cyber Educated.” The Initiative was also a 2020 CSO50 Award winner.