This is a collaborative project involving the Polytechnic University of New York (NSF Award No. 1129459) and CUNY New York City College of Technology (NSF Award No. 1128869).

This SFS Capacity Building project is engaging high school students in cybersecurity-related activities and inspiring them to pursue higher studies in this important area. The project is creating a nationwide high school forensics challenge, which attracts thousands of students to get first-hand experience learning and working on security-related issues. In order to help the student participants, the project is training a cadre of high school teachers to mentor and coach teams that take part in the challenge and thereby to facilitate the integration of cybersecurity topics into high school curricula. The project is also creating a portal of Web resources for high school students, to facilitate their engagement in self-learning activities in the area of cybersecurity.

The evaluation component of the project aims to answer the more difficult questions related to impact. Namely, does the creation of a contest lead to an increased number of students pursuing higher education in STEM disciplines? Does it stimulate creative thinking? Does it broaden participation? Does participation in a cybersecurity competition enhance students' interest in cybersecurity, computer science, mathematics, and science? Do competition participants enroll in computer science programs at college in higher proportion than their peers?

The project includes collaboration with a minority serving institution in order to increase the participation of women and minorities. The project is specifically recruiting 10 women and minority teachers to attend the summer boot camp and is inviting 10 groups of women and minority teachers and their students to attend the Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) award ceremony. These two activities contribute to the formation of a network of personal, educational, and professional ties, provide young students with role models, and lead to fruitful mentoring relationships and research.

Project Report

The main objective of this project is to focus on the high school community and increase awareness, proficiency, and innovation in the area of cyber security by: 1) Creating a nation-wide high school forensics challenge that attracts thousands of students to participate and get first hand experience learning and working on security related issues. 2) Train a cadre of high school teachers to mentor and coach teams that take part in the high school forensics challenge and thereby facilitate and catalyze integration of cyber security topics in high school curriculum. 3) Create a portal of web resources for high school students to facilitate their engagement in extra curricular and selflearning activity in the area of cyber security. Two summer camps were conducted. For each camp we received more than 50 applications and selected about 25 teachers. Adjustements were made based on the feedback received by teachers after the first year, but both years the response received based on focus group with evaluator, were very positive. Teachers mentored teams to take part in CSAW. Getting teachers to recruit women students resulted in a large increase in women entries to CSAW. Over all CSAW also saw a great increase. In the first year we h had more than 1300 students register from about 250 high schools around the country. This was three times more as compared to 2011. IN 2013 we saw another 20% increase sending the number of students competingover 1500. Finally, a Web portal CyFor was created for high school students. CyFor has content areas such as disk forensics, file system forensics, network forensics, operating system forensics, steganalysis, as well as shared student projects. Each area consists of short videos, power point slides and challenges. Aside from content, one of the most visited areas has been the discussion group. High school students and teachers from across the country have used this forum todiscuss topics, share lesson plans, get forensic help, and network. Within the discussion forum students have worked through forensic challenges such as the NIST Hacking case, sharing solutions and ideas. Students have also requestedand received support in setting up virtual labs, open-source tools, and worked through various forensic challenges. Our metrics show that out of approximately 7000 visitors, 58% are return visitors and 42% are new visitors. Average duration of a returning visit is 12 minutes which could be attributed to a student viewing 1 or 2 modules and participating ina discussion. In september alone we had 3700 visits with an average duration of 11 minutes. With the increase in national forensic competitions such as DC3, US Cyber Challenge, and CSAW, CyFor is becoming a central portal for high school students across the countr CyFor has been a catalyst for change in how students learn forensics. In September we had a blind high school student from NJ reach out about forensic tools that are accessible. CyFor volunteer staff worked diligently to find a blindprofessional with forensic experience to give the student support. That professional subsequently created BCF-Mole (Blind CyberForensics-Mole) which is the first-known blind-accessible forensic linux distribution. This distribution iscurrently being tested and will be released open-source shortly.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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R. Corby Hovis
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Polytechnic University of New York
United States
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