NSF Grant Funds New Cyber Security Education Platform

EIT Assistant Professor Dr. Mengjun Xie photographed 9-21-2015

Dr. Mengjun Xie

An interdisciplinary team of UALR researchers is giving cyber security education a much-needed upgrade, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The $276,424 grant enables the team to develop PROMISE, a Platform for Competition and Education in Cyber Security. Led by Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr. Mengjun Xie, the researchers will create a cohesive system of free resources designed for multiple levels of cyber security learners. As a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity Education, UALR is well-equipped to launch the platform. Xie is joined by co-principal investigator Dr. Kenji Yoshigoe, Professor of Computer Science; Dr. Chia-Chu Chiang, Professor of Computer Science; Dr. Shucheng Yu, Associate Professor of Computer Science; and Dr. Amy Sedivy-Benton, Associate Professor of Teacher Education.

PROMISE will offer engaging learning modules that can be implemented in both high school and collegiate classrooms. These lessons will cover basic principles for cyber security beginners, rigorous training for cyber security competitions, and the stages of learning in between. “A set of learning modules will be developed to cover a variety of important security topics,” the team stated in their proposal. “Each learning module will have four levels of content to engage learners with different backgrounds and interests.”

The virtual space will also house “labs” in which visitors can do experiments and collaborate with each other. In the cyber security world, collaboration often means healthy competition—in fact, national competitions take place regularly. PROMISE will cater to this culture in an unprecedented way, the researchers said.

“The platform is novel in that it will support competitions of different styles as well as hands-on puzzles and labs, all in the same style, which makes PROMISE a versatile facility for both security competition and general security education.”

All of PROMISE’s features have two main goals—to improve the quality of national cyber security education and to equip students to be exemplary professionals in the field. While its importance is undisputed, the field faces a lack of readily available training, which has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers. PROMISE’s flexible, easily accessible curricula will make getting a quality education in cyber security possible for countless students.

In addition to creating and sharing the virtual platform, the UALR team will host a variety of outreach events, including a workshop, competitions, and high school and college visits to promote PROMISE.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1623628.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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