Cyber Classrooms

Government agencies and non-profit groups are investing in training youths in computer science and cybersecurity to address the growing need for qualified experts in the field.

SIGNAL magazine’s interview with Sandia National Laboratories highlights programs such as its Center for Cyber Defenders internship program that focuses on bridging education between government, universities and high schools. Located at the Cybersecurity Technologies Research Laboratory (CTRL), the lab uses industry/academic professionals, venture capitalists, and an unorthodox open-floor plan to attract top talent in an “open but secure” environment, according to Levi Lloyd, technical manager at Sandia and cybersecurity researcher and engineer.

The lab aims to tackle cybersecurity research and development, present-day/future threats, and provide real-world cybersecurity solutions.

As part of the internship program, interns this summer successfully participated in a video teleconferencing penetration exercise identifying vulnerabilities in Sandia’s system.

Of 481 applications for the 2015 program ranging from high-school to post-secondary students, 16 were accepted.

In the end, Sandia brought in 16 interns from the University of California, Berkeley; Carnegie Mellon University; Pennsylvania State University; the University of Texas at Dallas; Auburn University; the University of Southern California; Kansas State University; the California Institute of Technology; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and Brigham Young University.

Craig Shannon, an instructor at Sandia’s Cyber Technologies Academy (CTA), mentioned to SIGNAL magazine that the Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is a preferred method of recruitment for him. Shannon also stressed the importance of cybersecurity awareness at an earlier stage of education (high school) for both students and teachers alike.

Former California-based high school computer science teacher Carol Kinnard outlined the Indianapolis-based Project Lead the Way (PLTW) which develops curricula for varying levels of grade school. The PLTW program includes cybersecurity courses with topics of cyber ethics and cyber hygiene as features and is scheduled for national rollout in fall 2017. Both Kinnard and Shannon both emphasized to SIGNAL magazine that education in cybersecurity fundamentals at a younger age helps students to adapt to future fast-changing security situations, and course curriculum must reflect the dynamic pace of this change. Lloyd also mentioned that job appeal for the new generation is tied to its relevance in helping society.