Burgum encourages high school and college students to join innovative cybersecurity competition

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today announced the state’s participation in an innovative, online cybersecurity competition and encouraged high school-aged women to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by participating.

The 2019 Girls Go CyberStart program is a series of online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore related topics such as cryptography and digital forensics. Participating students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. The program, sponsored by the SANS Institute, is free for schools and students, and all girls in grades 9-12 are invited to play.

North Dakota 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 50 additional students, 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. At least 10 high school girls who do well in the game will receive $500 scholarships to help pay for college. The three North Dakota high schools with the most participants will win awards of $1,000, $750 and $500, respectively.

“This exciting program builds on our statewide efforts to provide students innovative learning opportunities and technology skills that will be relevant to students in any career path,” Burgum said. “These competitions offer fun activities for young women and men to explore and learn about the high-tech, high-impact field of cybersecurity.”

Burgum is a member of GovsForCS, the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science. This group of bipartisan state leaders is committed to advancing policy and funding to expand access to, and increase equity in, K-12 computer science (CS) education.

“We are excited to expand computer science and cybersecurity offerings in rural and urban areas by partnering with SANS on this program,” State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said. “This opens doors for North Dakota students to learn new skills, have fun and potentially earn scholarship money – a win-win for everyone.”

Both male and female college students also can 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.

“This program offers a leadership opportunity for young women and college students that can open the door to new interests as well as exciting careers,” North Dakota Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley said.

Complete details may be found at girlsgocyberstart.org and cyber-fasttrack.org. High school girls may register for Girls Go CyberStart through March 20, when the games begin. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.joincyberstart.com/.

Participation in the CyberStart Challenge is aligned with the “K-20W Initiative.” K-20W, which stands for “kindergarten through Ph.D. and workforce,” is a collaborative effort with more than 40 public and private sector partners who are advancing statewide efforts to provide computer science and cybersecurity training and resources to North Dakota’s educators and students.

Participating students and schools are encouraged to share updates on social media with #InnovativeND, #NDGirlsGoCyber and #TechEverywhere.

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