First high school course in cyber security made possible through unique partnership of SU, U.S. Air Force and Rome Catholic School
First high school course in cyber security made possible through unique partnership of SU, U.S. Air Force and Rome Catholic SchoolMarch 14, 2006Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
At Rome Catholic School (RCS), in Rome, N.Y., high school students now have the opportunity to learn about cyber security, as well as computer engineering, through an elective course — the first of its kind in the country — created by a unique partnership involving the school, the U.S. Air Force and Syracuse University.
This pilot program — which seeks to develop a curriculum for statewide adoption — is an initiative of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate (AFRL), located in Rome, and Syracuse University. The course is in direct response to U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s challenge to the scientific community to bring cyber security education into the high schools.
Boehlert, chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, has secured more than $2.4 million in funding for cyber security education in Central New York over the past three years. One of the beneficiaries of that funding is the Advanced Course in Engineering (ACE) Cybersecurity Boot Camp held each summer in Rome. The boot camp brings university students from around the country — most of them ROTC cadets or National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service Cyber Fellows — to Rome for 10 weeks for intensive studies in cyber security and for practical, hands-on experience with the AFRL in Rome. ACE Director Kamal Jabbour, principal computer engineer in the AFRL’s Cyber Operations Branch and associate professor of computer engineering in SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), built on the success of the boot camp in developing the high school pilot program.
Currently, 13 RCS sophomores, juniors and seniors are participating in the pilot program, which began Jan. 31 and is taught by four RCS teachers. The class meets after school for 45 minutes four days a week for 20 weeks. Students learn about network configuration; vulnerabilities and threats; and prevention, detection and response through lectures, laboratories and guest speakers. The AFRL’s Cyber Operations Branch and ECS equipped the 12-station computer laboratory and provided mentoring for the RCS instructors.
“Syracuse University is thrilled to be partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome Catholic High School and Congressman Boehlert in the development of a one-of-a-kind high school course in cyber security,” says Eric F. Spina, the Douglas D. Danforth Dean of ECS. “Both secure commerce and our national defense require dramatic improvements in cyber security, and the early engagement of young people is a key to our continued leadership in this field. The partnership between SU Engineering and Computer Science faculty and AFRL enables the cyber security course to be taught at the ‘bleeding edge,’ where the most exciting developments in computer science and engineering are occurring.
“Syracuse University looks forward to expanding on the Rome Catholic partnership and working with high school educators from across New York state and the nation in the further development of cyber security education for young people,” Spina says. “We believe that this experience will motivate and inspire a new generation of young people to study computer science and engineering in college and accelerate their contribution to our nation’s welfare.”
Organizers are planning a development workshop Aug. 14-18 in Rome to train high school teachers as instructors for the high school program. SU’s Project Advance will coordinate this training of high school science, math, computer and technology teachers from around the state. The workshop includes an overview of the course curriculum, in-depth lectures by cyber security experts from the AFRL and SU, hands-on experience with the laboratory setup and “lessons learned” from the teachers of the RCS pilot program. Project Advance will eventually take over the facilitation of the program.
“Project Advance’s involvement takes this partnership a step further,” says Gerald Edmonds, director of Project Advance. “By adding the Cyber Security course to our program, the opportunity for continuous interaction between high schools and the University will strengthen the intellectual exchange that is so important to ensuring a seamless transition from high school to college for our students. Our mission is to keep high school seniors engaged in their studies at the highest level, and students enrolled in the SU sections of this course offered at their high schools will experience the same workload and curriculum as our campus students.”