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UA Little Rock Receives $150,000 NSA Grant to Host Cybersecurity Educational Program Across Arkansas

Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity, and Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the UA Little Rock Cyber Gym
Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity, and Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the UA Little Rock Cyber Gym

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a nearly $150,000 grant from the National Security Agency to hold a year’s worth of free cybersecurity educational events for junior high and high school students in Arkansas.

UA Little Rock will partner with Philander Smith College to host the 2nd Arkansas GenCyber Strength Training camp in Arkansas, which will support the state’s long-term investment in secondary school cybersecurity education.

The grant will fund a free two-week cybersecurity summer camp at UA Little Rock in July 2023. In addition to the summer camp, UA Little Rock will host a series of quarterly education events designed as escape rooms with cybersecurity challenges to get Arkansas students excited about cybersecurity education.

Those working on the grant include Dr. Philip Huff, assistant professor of cybersecurity at UA Little Rock, Sandra Leiterman, managing director of the UA Little Rock Cyber Arena, and Dr. Suzan Anwar, a UA Little Rock graduate, assistant professor, and department chair of computer science at Philander Smith College.

The Arkansas GenCyber Strength Training program will be offered at no cost to up to 100 rising 7th-12th grade students in Arkansas. There will be both a virtual and in-person camp option so that students from across the state can participate even if they are unable to travel to Little Rock.

Students will also participate in hands-on activities in cyber attacks and defense provided through UA Little Rock’s Cyber Arena, which already provides cloud-based cybersecurity labs to more than 500 virtual students in Arkansas.

“Students will learn how to think like a hacker and stop cyber criminals in their tracks,” Leiterman said. “Each day will feature a world-renowned expert speaker in cybersecurity and the top hands-on cybersecurity training in the region. We will bring partners from industry, academia, and professional development organizations to provide multiple pathways to a cybersecurity career.”

This two-week camp focuses on the GenCyber Cybersecurity Concepts. Participants will hear from industry experts about career opportunities and will learn about cybersecurity with state-of-the art hands-on activities that allows the students to experience cyberattacks from both the victim and adversary side.

“I will teach portions of the camp, provide assistance to the teachers teaching the camp, assist in content and curriculum development to ensure it is relevant and unbiased to the target audience,” Anwar said. “Philander Smith College undergraduate student researchers will assist with camp preparation and develop cybersecurity labs and the GenCyber escape room used for outreach activities.”

Those interested in the GenCyber programming should fill out this online form for more information.