Burgum encourages student participation in national cybersecurity challenge

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

The 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. Last year North Dakota had the highest per capita participation, with 310 girls from 28 schools engaged.

Registration opens Dec. 2 with the first phase of the program, CyberStart Assess, taking place Jan. 13-31. Students who complete five or more CyberStart Assess challenges will be eligible for the CyberStart Game February 10 to April 17, with top-scoring teams then eligible to compete in a national competition in April. Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools. Both male and female college students also can play the college program, Cyber FastTrack, a pipeline to $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity education as well as internships and jobs in the field. Several informational webinars are also being hosted by SANS on Dec. 3 and Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. MT and 4 p.m. PT both days.

“Cybersecurity skills are in demand in virtually every industry and every country, and North Dakota’s goal is to lead the nation in providing foundational computer science and cybersecurity skills that will help our students and workforce succeed in 21st century careers,” Burgum said.

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.

“Women are underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry, and there are plentiful opportunities in the profession,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s state school superintendent. “Girls Go CyberStart is free to enter, it’s challenging and fun, and participants can win college scholarship money. I encourage all young ladies to give it a try.”

“Numerous states are reaching out to find out how North Dakota has advanced our statewide focus on cybersecurity, from our whole-of-government approach to securing our systems and citizens’ data, to our award-winning K-20W Initiative,” said North Dakota Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley. “This program is a great example of the kind of partnership and engaging activity that helps students discover an affinity for skills that are in demand globally.”

Complete details may be found at girlsgocyberstart.org and cyber-fasttrack.org. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.joincyberstart.com/. Participating students and schools are encouraged to share updates on social media with #InnovativeND, #GGCyberStart and #TechEverywhere.

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. The award-winning initiative has a stated goal of “Every Student. Every School. Cyber Educated.”

Nov. 11- 16 is also National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week. Sponsored by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, the week is an opportunity for government, business, education, community-based organizations, students and workers to inspire, educate and engage citizens to pursue careers in cybersecurity. The weeklong campaign provides an opportunity to learn about the contributions and innovations of cybersecurity practitioners, and the plethora of job opportunities that can be found when exploring cybersecurity as a career choice.

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