Gov. Brad Little has announced that Idaho will again partner with the SANS Institute on an initiative to introduce Idaho high school and college students to careers in cybersecurity through the Girls Go CyberStart and Cyber FastTrack initiatives.
The partnership aims to identify talented youth across Idaho and inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
Last year, the state joined both initiatives for the first time and saw more than 150 high school girls and boys participate in the online Girls Go CyberStart training program. Similarly, more than 200 college students competed in the Cyber FastTrack program. Students who participate receive access to 300 hours of training leading to immediately employable skills in cyber and information security. Both online programs are offered to students free of charge through private industry sponsorships that allow students to earn prizes and scholarships for their participation.
Registration for CyberStart begins on Dec. 2, and FastTrack registration begins in March.
In 2019, three Idaho high school teams scored well enough in the national Girls Go CyberStart competition to earn prize money for their school or organization. A team from Idaho Falls Compass Academy was awarded $1,000, while a team from Boise-based Foothills School of Arts and Sciences was awarded $750, and a team from Coeur d' Alene's Gizmo CDA was awarded $500. In addition, a team from Boise’s Centennial High School was one of 120 teams nationwide to advance to the national championship round in June. In 2019, a total of 10,330 high school girls from across the country participated in the competition.
In the college Cyber FastTrack program, students from 11 Idaho colleges and universities took part in the program with three Idaho students placing in the top 100 nationally. University of Idaho senior Taegan Williams, Lewis-Clark State College senior Karl Lundgren, and Brigham Young University-Idaho sophomore Justin Wilson outperformed more than 13,000 college students in the competition, each earning $22,000 toward an undergraduate certificate in Applied CyberSecurity from the SANS Institute.
Girls Go CyberStart is a free online game open to female and male students in grades 9 through 12, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology. Playing alone or on teams, students solve challenges to gain points and advance through levels earning prizes along the way. In addition to individual prizes, such as trips, gift certificates and computers, the three in-state schools with the most participants win monetary prizes. Idaho girls who participate in the program are eligible to win one of at least 10 scholarships for $500 to the college of their choice.
Cyber FastTrack is a free online cybersecurity program for college students and recent graduates. Designed by global technology experts, FastTrack is designed for college students who want a rapid pathway to join the cyber workforce. Cyber FastTrack students can earn scholarships to study advanced cybersecurity at the SANS Institute.
Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection.
In addition to the SANS Institute, Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho STEM Action Center are key supporters of the initiative. More information on the programs can be found at www.girlsgocyberstart.org and www.cyberfasttrack.org.