Girls Go Cyberstart Provides Opportunities for High School Girls to Explore Careers in Cybersecurity and Cyber FastTrack Accelerates Cybersecurity Opportunities for All College Students in Alabama

Press Releases
Posted on March 15, 2019

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey today encouraged young women in Alabama high schools to take advantage of an opportunity to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by trying to solve the challenges of the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart program. Participating students, and their teachers, do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. All that is required is a computer and an Internet connection. The program is free for schools and students.

Participants use the CyberStart Game, an online series of challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore exciting, relevant topics such as cryptography and digital forensics. Alabama high schools where at least five girls in the Girls Go CyberStart Program master six or more of the challenges, will win access to the full CyberStart Game for their entire school, extending the competition to both male and female students for the remainder of the school year.

Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools. In Alabama, at least 10 high school girls will each get $500 scholarships to help them pay for college.

“Technology is transforming every sector of Alabama’s workforce, and today’s students need an education and experiences that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” Governor Ivey said. “These CyberStart competitions are fun ways for young women and men to explore and learn about the high-tech, high-impact field of cybersecurity.”

In 2018, the SANS Institute piloted Girls Go CyberStart, a program designed to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals while identifying talented youth. The 2018 program provided the opportunity for 6,650 young women in 16 states to discover and demonstrate their aptitude for cybersecurity.

NBC News recently published an in-depth analysis of the 2018 Girls Go CyberStart. The analysis concluded with a quote from one of the young women who participated that speaks to the success of the program: “Right now, I’d say I’ve gone from pretty much zero interest in cybersecurity to really being pulled in that direction. And I’d love to play the game again if it happens again next year.”

One teacher wrote a particularly telling note: “Before I recruited girls to be a part of this wonderful program, I struggled to get girls to realize they could be computer scientists. I had girls actually saying they were too stupid to do this until I said, ‘Just try it.’ Some of my girls found out they were good at puzzles, some found out they liked programming. I now have girls asking our counselor about computer science degrees at our local community college.”

Another teacher wrote, “I would love to keep CyberStart in my classroom because it is presented in a fun, interactive environment that encourages students to problem-solve, code, and learn how computer science works. As the game progresses, students visibly develop the drive to solve that next challenge, and then the next. The motivation to research, collaborate, and ‘try-fail-try-fail-try and try and get it’ is a skill set that will serve them in whatever career they pursue. And won’t it be great if that career is cybersecurity?”

Both male and female college students also have the opportunity to play CyberStart this year. The college program, called Cyber FastTrack, is a pipeline to $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity education as well as internships and jobs in the field.

Complete details may be found at Girls Go CyberStart and at Cyber FastTrack. High school girls may pre-register for Girls Go CyberStart until March 20, when the games begin. Students can still register and play until April 12. College students may register and play Cyber FastTrack between April 5 and May 10. To see the types of challenges the students will face in the games, please click here.