General Questions

Who attends GenCyber programs?

Programs are designed for either secondary students and/or teachers. All programs are free of charge for attendees. Some programs target specific populations (e.g., high school students). Each host academic institution markets and recruits for their individual GenCyber offering.

How are grant recipients selected?

  • The GenCyber Program Office releases a “Call for Proposals” early winter each year. Interested academic institutions submit proposals that meets application grant criteria by the published deadline.
  • Government reviewers evaluate the proposal to determine eligibility. Upon eligibility determination, notifications are released via email to both grant recipients and non-awardees.

How did GenCyber get started?

GenCyber began in 2014 with eight prototype camps. The number of camps has increased over the years to on average more than 100 programs per year in 35-40 states. The GenCyber program is closely modeled after a very successful language camp program STARTALK, which NSA has supported since 2007. GenCyber is closely aligned with the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) program and oftentimes serves as the first cybersecurity experience for student and/or teacher participants.

Why is NSA interested in the development of STEM/Cyber at the K-12 level?

  • Cybersecurity is not consistently taught in schools, even within computer science classes. The goal is to change that by spurring best practices in cybersecurity pedagogy across content areas and development of curricula and lesson plans that can be used to infuse cybersecurity principles across many subject areas.
  • Cybersecurity is vital to the future of the United States, not just at the government level, but also at the industrial, economic, academic, and personal levels as well. It is critical that young students have a basic understanding of cybersecurity so that they can identify how cybersecurity impacts all aspects of their lives, be it social media, economic situations, or physical devices. We need both broad awareness of cybersecurity in the general population and experts in the field who can identify and mitigate vulnerabilities.

Why not make a program like this at the undergraduate/graduate levels?

NSA already has numerous partnerships with universities around the nation to develop cybersecurity education at the collegiate level though, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, with whom GenCyber partners. The problem is that not enough young people are choosing to enter these programs out of high school, so we need to encourage and inspire them at a younger age.

Who needs all these cybersecurity experts?

The risk of cyber-attacks and adversarial intrusions continues to rise. People with cybersecurity skills are needed for the federal, state, and local government, the military, private industry, nonprofits, and for individuals to protect their personal assets. Key industries such as financial, transportation, water, power, healthcare, and others are critical to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens, which in particular, need cybersecurity talent.

How are the universities involved?

Universities, public and private schools or school systems are eligible to receive GenCyber grants. GenCyber grants provide funding for universities to manage and run GenCyber programs. Universities, in particular, have expertise in grant management and many are already engaged in preparing youth for careers in cybersecurity. GenCyber is often a natural local outreach program for them.

How much does this cost the taxpayer?

All funding for GenCyber has been derived for existing programs, so no additional funds, i.e., budget increases, have been used to support the program.