Free Cybersecurity Training for Girls Opens 2020 Registration

A national program to teach girls about cybersecurity has opened 2020 registration. So far, clubs in Utah, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Idaho, Illinois and other states and U.S. territories are signed on to participate in the 2020 Girls Go CyberStart challenge. The training partnership with the security-focused SANS Institute helps female higher schoolers explore cybersecurity and learn more about career opportunities in the field. Those who go through the gaming itself may also win scholarships.

The program is intended for girls 13 and up in grades 9 through 12. It delivers digital challenges to introduce them to topics such as cryptography, web vulnerabilities, Python, Linux and forensics. They can participate from home or school, and the program is free for everybody. Nobody needs knowledge or experience in IT or cybersecurity to participate. That includes the advisors, who can be any teacher, administrator or adult associated with a given school or organization. "No tech skills are required from you, just a passion and enthusiasm for helping your students learn," the organization explained on its website.

Activities include "CyberStart Assess," where the learning takes place, and CyberStart Game, where the competition takes place.

A public leaderboard tracks participation by state, including the number of girls who have registered, the number of schools participating and the number of participants who make it all the way to the start of the competitions.

"I know what it's like to be a trailblazer--to be the first woman in my position or the only woman leader in the room," said Illinois State Superintendent of Education, Carmen Ayala, in a statement. "Mentors, encouragement and access to resources make all the difference in the world to providing more opportunities for girls. Girls Go CyberStart provides these critical supports early in young women's career journeys. I encourage all Illinois high schools to participate and expand the horizons of our female students."

"Bringing awareness to STEM in education is a priority in the Rochester School District starting in kindergarten through high school because we feel it is important for all students to become leaders in these fields," added Sheril Flynn, K-6 technology facilitator for Rochester Community Unit School District 3A. "The Girls Go CyberStart program offers students across Illinois a chance to explore cybersecurity at the same time it is bringing awareness to future job opportunities."

The organization's website is already posting activities on its blog to help girls learn about the subjects they'll be tackling in more detail during upcoming months, including puzzles focused on steganography and encoding.

Registration is open until the end of January; however, online programing begins on Jan. 13, 2020.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.