INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CYBER STARS

INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CYBER STARS

INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CYBER STARS

The 2015-2019 5-Year Report to determine the effectiveness of GenCyber at reaching its goals is now available

What is the GenCyber program?

The GenCyber program strives to be a part of the solution to the Nation’s shortfall of skilled cybersecurity professionals. The vision of the program is to inspire the next generation of cyber stars by working with academic and federal partners to ignite cybersecurity awareness and teach sound cybersecurity fundamentals that strengthen the K-12 cybersecurity ecosystem and the Nation's future workforce.

The GenCyber program seeks to ignite and sustain cybersecurity interest at the K-12 level in order to build a competent, diverse, and adaptable cybersecurity workforce pipeline through alignment with the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C).


What are the goals of GenCyber?
  • Igniting, sustaining, and increasing awareness of K12 cybersecurity content and cybersecurity postsecondary and career opportunities for participants through year-round engagement.
  • Increasing student diversity in cybersecurity college and career readiness pathways at the K-12 level.
  • Facilitating teacher readiness within a teacher learning community to learn, develop, and deliver cybersecurity content for the K-12 classroom in collaboration with other nationwide initiatives.

Who attends GenCyber camps?
Camps are designed for either students or teachers. All camps are free of charge for attendees. Some camps target specific populations (e.g., girls only).

Why is NSA interested in the development of STEM/Cyber at the K-12 level?

The supply of cybersecurity professionals has fallen far short of demand, with some studies estimating the gap being as large as 600,000 professionals needed to meet the Nation’s demand. We hope to help turn that around.

In addition, cybersecurity is rarely taught in schools even within computer science classes. We hope to help change that by spurring best practices in cybersecurity pedagogy across content areas and development of curricula and lesson plans that can be used to infuse cybersecurity principles across many subject areas.

Cybersecurity is vital to the future of the United States, not just at the government level, but also at the industrial, economic, academic, and personal levels as well. It is critical that young students have a basic understanding of cybersecurity so that as they learn through their schooling and personal experiences, they can see how cybersecurity impacts all aspects of their lives, be it through social media, economic situations, or physical devices.

Our country is entering an era where numerous household items, personal computing devices, and business systems are being connected to “The Internet of Things”. In this rapidly evolving technology environment, everyone needs to be cognizant of cybersecurity. Whether you are an NSA analyst, an accountant, an electrician, or a stay-at-home parent, these devices will become increasingly important in our lives. We need both broad awareness of cybersecurity in the general population and experts in the field who can identify and mitigate vulnerabilities.


Why not make a program like this at the undergraduate/graduate levels?
NSA already has numerous partnerships with universities around the nation to develop cybersecurity education at the collegiate level, such as the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, with whom GenCyber partners. The problem is that not enough young people are choosing to enter these programs out of high school, so we need to encourage and inspire them at a younger age.

Who needs all these cybersecurity experts?
The risk of cyber attacks and adversarial intrusions continues to rise. People with cybersecurity skills are needed for the federal government, State and local governments, the military, private industry, nonprofits, and for individuals for their personal assets. Key industries such as financial, transportation, water, power, healthcare, and others are critical to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens. They, in particular, need cybersecurity talent.

How did GenCyber get started?
GenCyber began in 2014 with eight prototype camps. In only six years, the program has grown to 154 camps offered in 44 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico. The GenCyber program is closely modeled after a very successful language camp program – STARTALK – that NSA has supported since 2007.

What are STARTALK camps and what makes them successful?
STARTALK camps are intended to increase the interest in students to study less commonly taught languages (e.g. Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Korean) and to grow the instruction of these languages in primary school systems around the country. The STARTALK program began in 2007 and has been very successful in meeting its goals. GenCyber has leveraged the success of STARTALK by utilizing many of its principles and practices.

What are the future plans for the camps/program?
There is a very strong demand for GenCyber programs. In 2020, we funded 154 camps in 44 states, plus DC in Puerto Rico. The goal is to have as many camps as possible and encompass all 50 states.

Who funds the program?
To date, funding has been provided by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation. ODNI supplied funding in FY2020.

Who else is involved in running the program?
NSA, as creator of the GenCyber program, leads the development and management of the program. NSF has provided significant funding support.

How are the universities involved?
Universities, public or private schools or school systems are eligible to receive GenCyber grants. GenCyber grants provide funding for universities to manage and run GenCyber camps. Universities, in particular, have expertise in grant management and many are already engaged in preparing youth for careers in cybersecurity. GenCyber is often a natural outreach program for them.

How much does this cost the taxpayer?
All funding for GenCyber has been derived for existing programs, so no additional funds, i.e., budget increases, have been used to support the program.

Who received funding for this year's camps?
Please click on locate a camp on our homepage to see who received funding for 2020 summer camp. Decisions for the 2021 cycle are still underway.

How will grant recipients be selected next year and beyond?
For the 2021 summer, a call for proposals went out in October 2020 – decisions are still underway. The call for proposals for traditional 2022 summer camps (with pre-camp outreach beginning in 2021) was released on 5 February, 2021.

Where can I go for more information?
For information regarding a specific camp, please go to that institution’s website which is linked via the locate a camp page.

Where can I find other K-12 resources?

Several of GenCyber’s partners offer resources for those in the K-12 environment.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency:
National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies | Home page (cisa.gov)

National Initiative Cybersecurity Education (NICE):
https://www.nist.gov/itl/applied-cybersecurity/nice/about/community-coordinating-council/k12-cybersecurity-education

National Science Foundation:
https://www.nsf.gov/funding/education.jsp?fund_type=4


Proposals FAQs

Is the GenCyber program just for four-year universities?
GenCyber camps may be offered at colleges, universities, or public/private schools or school systems. Not-for-profits can apply for a grant, but must partner with an aforementioned institution.

Can an institution submit more than one proposal?
Yes. Keep in mind the evaluation/selection process is very competitive and there is no guarantee that any proposal will be funded. Ensure that if your institution submits more than one proposal, that each proposal is structured as a stand-alone program with fully independent budgets.

If I submit a proposal in this CFP (released 5 Feb 2021), when will I host my camp?
Your traditional summer camp should run in summer 2022. We’ve adjusted the period of performance from one year to two years to allow sufficient time for the new requirements of pre- and post-camp outreach.

Why is there an additional requirement of outreach?
Research has shown us that the more engagement students and teachers have, the more impactful the camp.

Can I host a camp for students at any level?
The focus of the GenCyber program is for students at the middle school and high school level, but proposals for elementary school students will be considered on case-by-case basis.

How long must my camp run?
Each camp must be at least 5 days/30 hours, with an additional 16-20 hours in pre- and post-camp outreach.

How is the GenCyber Program ensuring COVID-19 safety procedures are being followed?
The GenCyber program office defers to the local and state guidance for each GenCyber camp – in-person camps are expected to follow appropriate local, state and CDC guidance. Camps also have the option to host a virtual or hybrid camp to further ensure safety of participants and camp staff.

Can the same person serve in multiple roles? As the Program Director and also the Lead Instructor?
No, the same person cannot serve as both the Program Director and Lead Instructor. We’d also prefer that neither the PD or LI serve as the K-12 expert, but will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Can we identify a co-director and/or a co-lead instructor? And if so, where do we note this in the proposal submission?
Currently there is not an option in the system to identify co-PDs or CO-lead instructors. We ask that for the sake of the grant; one of each be identified and be responsible for communication, if funded.

Our institution would like to offer two student camps – one camp for high school students and one camp for middle school students – should we submit two different proposals?
If you would like to offer two camps for different camp participants (age, advanced v. beginner, etc.) that will have a different curriculum, two separate proposals should be submitted.

If an institution wants to host two separate camps, one for teachers and one for students, do we have to submit two separate proposals?
Yes, a separate proposal must be submitted for each type of camp. Additionally, if you plan to host more than one type of student or teacher camp with different curricula (example: beginner versus advanced), you must submit separate proposals. Each proposal is evaluated independently against the criteria of that specific type of camp.

The system asks for the program beginning and ending date. What should these dates specifically represent?
Beginning and ending dates should be the specific dates that your camp will be held. Keep in mind that each camp must have a minimum of 30 instructional hours. There are new fields for your required 16-20 hours of pre- and post-camp outreach; here you will include a brief summary of when you anticipate meeting this requirement.

Is there a limit to the amount of funds that may be used to purchase tech or other items for the camp participants to take home with them at the end of the camp?
Yes. For teachers, the monetary amount of takeaways should be valued at $350 or less. Teacher stipends should follow geographical norms and be based upon time spent in professional development activities. We ask that the monetary amount of takeaways for students be $125 or less. Cash and gift cards are NOT permissible.

What would disqualify my proposal?

Each proposal must include certain requirements regardless of camp type; the following would disqualify a proposal from being funded:

  • Paid camp staff that are not US citizens or US permanent residents prior to award
  • Lack of a K-12 pedagogical expert or appropriate K-12 experience
  • Less than 30 hours/5 days of instruction time
  • Lack of pre – and/or post-camp outreach
  • Incomplete packages
  • Identical proposals for different submissions (no/very little changes between student beginner/student advanced)

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