How Cybersecurity Competitions Inspire Kids To Study Tech

05.16.17 1 month ago

Uproxx

Uproxx knows that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines are driving the future of this planet forward. Every day, we see new ideas, fresh innovations, and bold trailblazers in these fields. Follow us this month as we highlight how STEM is shaping the culture of NOW.

Everyone and their mother uses the internet. Hell, even North Korea uses some kind of internet. Which means everyone and their mothers, along with North Korea, are susceptible to privacy breaches and hacking. Buying stuff, “checking in” at Standing Rock, enrolling in newsletters, and connecting your phone to your home’s security system — it all makes you vulnerable. And try as you might to reject all notions of vulnerability, you’re in need of a hero.

A whole new generation of heroes, in fact — a fresh wave of IT and cyber security students from around the country. The trouble is, it can be a challenge to find those students.

As you probably know — because you’re damn sure not reading this in print — science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are absolutely integral to everyday life. In an increasingly tech driven world, it goes without saying that STEM is the future. However, companies in the industry are struggling to find workers skilled enough to fill vacant employment positions. Almost half of ACT-tested students (1 million) graduating in 2016 demonstrated an interest in stem and the rate of attrition for STEM majors was lower (48%) than most other non-STEM fields (56-62%) — still it’s hard to keep up with demand, especially with weak or underdeveloped programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

A lack of student interest has inspired many companies and organizations to produce creative initiatives that promote STEM. One idea that’s managed to attract the ever elusive interest of young people are cyber security competitions — that’s where those aforementioned heroes come in. In these competitions, teams of middle school and high school students become pseudo-IT professionals. They are challenged to strengthen and defend simulated computer networks, find cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and ethically hack connected computer systems. The thinking is that these competitions will provide a venue for students to practice true cyber defense skills, inspiring students to seek degrees and careers in the field.

It appears to be working: One of the country’s largest cyber competitions, Cyberpatriot, has grown nearly 40% each year, with over 3,300 teams across the U.S. and Canada participating.

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