Girls Go CyberStart is a free, interactive online program where teams of high school girls compete on digital challenges to learn about cybersecurity. Playing alone or on teams, participants solve challenges to gain points and advance through levels, earning prizes along the way. Teams can be formed through a high school, homeschool or afterschool program regardless of prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology.
"Getting young people excited about cybersecurity now can open doors to life-long career opportunities," Governor Cooper said. "We're connected to information and each other like never before, but with that connectivity comes security vulnerabilities and the need for a new generation of cybersecurity experts to keep our systems safe in the future."
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The contest is specifically designed to encourage more young women to consider careers in cybersecurity, a fast-growing field. Over 10,000 high school girls have taken part in the program nationwide.
Last year, 672 students from 77 N.C. high schools and afterschool programs participated in the program. Of those schools, six qualified for the national championship with Enloe Magnet High School placing fifth in the nation. N.C. players and their teachers took home a total of $8,550 in cash prizes and scholarships.
"This program excited our students and got them engaged in computer science and data security. Girls Go CyberStart makes those concepts approachable to the average high school student, then coaches them into more complex work," said Will Herring, teacher and Girls Go CyberStart advisor at Union Pines High School. "This game helped us identify talented young women in our school with an interest in computer science that might otherwise have been missed."
To join this year's contest, N.C. high school girls in grades 9-12 can register from Dec. 2, 2019, through January 31, 2020. Teams will play the online game from Jan. 13-31, 2020. Students and teachers can go online and play practice games from now until Dec. 1.
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The three in-state schools with the most participants will win monetary prizes. High schools where at least five girls in the Girls Go CyberStart program master five or more challenges will win access to the full CyberStart game for 50 additional students, expanding the opportunity to both male and female students for the remainder of the program.
Students who advance to the next level will then compete in the national competition against students in 29 other states.
"Cybersecurity jobs are increasing year over year, and there is a constant need for cybersecurity professionals. It is essential that we build a diverse workforce in this field so that not only North Carolina, but the United States, has the support it needs to contend in the cybersecurity industry. Women and girls can make that happen. This project will hopefully be one of many to fan the flames of interest in our young female students and create a pipeline for cybersecurity," Maria Thompson, North Carolina's chief risk officer, said.
How to Sign Up
More information about the competition and a sample challenge are available online now at GirlsGoCyberStart.org.
For N.C. specific information, please visit nc.gov/girlsgocyberstart.
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