For many American students headed back to school this week, the answer to the ageless question “what did you do on summer vacation?” is STEM camp.
That’s a summer experience of study and play in science, technology, engineering or math, skillsets that employers in the corporate and public sectors crave more than ever.
While STEM summer camps run the gamut of interests, the nation’s need for cybersecurity talent in particular -- there are more than 300,000 cybersecurity jobs currently unfilled -- has lead to rising interest in spending a summer gleaning skills that could be put to work in information security.
“Cybersecurity is not just a fall sport,” said Diane Miller, Northrop Grumman’s director for CyberPatriot Programs, which features an information security competition for high school and middle school students nationwide. “Given the critical global need for qualified talent, we’re keeping the momentum going all summer through fun, hands-on learning that give youth a sense of the importance, and cool career opportunities available in the cyber field.”
Northrop Grumman Corporation hosted numerous events this summer aimed at exciting and motivating youth to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Activities ranged from sold-out cyber camps and on-the-job training for high school and college interns in the US and the UK to the launch of CyberPatriot’s elementary school education initiative.
Northrop Grumman’s week-long cyber STEM camps were held from June through August in the following areas:
- Aurora, Colo., where the company partnered with Colorado State University’s College of Engineering and Colorado School of Mines along with Cherry Creek Schools to host the third annual camp, held July 21–24, at Grandview High School.
- Colorado Springs, Colo., in partnership with the University of Colorado Springs, hosted their second annual camp in June.
- Chantilly, Va., at Chantilly High School (the Governor’s STEM Academy), the company partnered with Fairfax County Public Schools to host the 5th annual cyber STEM camp.
- West Virginia, where Northrop Grumman developed a cyber track for students at the National Youth Science Foundation camp.
Each camp’s curriculum was based on the Air Force Association’s (AFA) CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program, which is presented by the Northrop Grumman Foundation.
Each camp included demonstrations and lab exercises culminating in a cybersecurity grand challenge where teams put their training to the test in a competition to identify vulnerabilities and protect their networks from hackers. Some camps featured broader learning opportunities in clean energy technologies, biomedical engineering, rocketry and robotics, among other subjects.
Even before the summer camp circuit, the CyberPatriot competition field has grown nearly 40% each year since 2009, reaching 2,175 teams in 2014-2015 in the US and Canada.
“There are not enough people out there fighting the battle of cyber, and young people have to be a part of that,” said Cailin Simpsor, an all-service division competitor from New Century Technology High School in Huntsville, Ala.
While CyberPatriot culminated in April, real-world experience was on-tap this summer for a record 40 CyberPatriot interns who worked side-by-side with Northrop Grumman cyber pros to defend networks and learn the national security importance of their work.
“When cyber professionals work side-by-side with [CyberPatriot] interns, they can start to see themselves in those jobs and in those professions,” said Miller.
One further innovation? A new component of the CyberPatriot program launched this summer focuses on elementary school students.
This CyberPatriot elementary school initiative includes several interactive modules designed to excite K-6 students about computers and teach them basic practices for staying safe online. The program encourages students to apply cyber ethics principles in their online interactions and to understand the importance of cybersecurity in their everyday lives.
By getting to students earlier in their academic careers, programs like CyberPatriot hope to make an even bigger difference in students opting to pursue STEM educations.
“CyberPatriot’s impact on students going to college and pursuing STEM is clear,” added Miller. “In a recent survey, of those CyberPatriots in college, 90 percent said they would pursue a degree in STEM, compared to the national average of 13.5 percent.”
For more about the impact CyberPatriot is making on students, see a full report here.
Parents interested in getting their kids into a cybersecurity competition can check out the following resources:
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) http://csrc.nist.gov/nice/index.htm
- DHS National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) www.niccs.us-cert.gov
- Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition http://www.nationalccdc.org/
- National CyberWatch Center cyberwatchcenter.org
- CyberPatriot (The National Youth Cyber Education Program) http://www.uscyberpatriot.org
- (Northrop Grumman) Northrop Grumman Careers http://www.northropgrumman.com/careers