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Maryland Competes in Girls Go CyberStart Cybersecurity Initiative for Third Year
Competition Encourages Young Women to Explore Careers
in Cybersecurity, Registration Now Open
BALTIMORE (December 6, 2019) - Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Maryland will once again participate in the Girls Go CyberStart initiative. This innovative cybersecurity training partnership with the SANS Institute inspires the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and identifies talented youth in Maryland through a series of online challenges and puzzles. Open to female high school students, Girls Go CyberStart encourages participants to explore their interests in cyber studies, learn core cybersecurity skills, and build confidence in problem-solving.
“The innovative Girls Go CyberStart competition has inspired high school girls across the state to pursue exciting careers and emerge as leaders in the ever-changing STEM field,” said Governor Hogan. “Of the top 100 national teams that competed this year, I am proud to say that Blair GirlsGo from Montgomery Blair High School placed first and PHS Girls Can Code from Poolesville High School placed second in the country, proving the strength of Maryland’s future cybersecurity workforce.”
Girls Go CyberStart is a free online game open to all female students in grades 9 through 12, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology. Playing alone or in teams, participants solve challenges to gain points and advance levels, earning prizes along the way. In addition to individual prizes, such as trips, gift certificates, and computers, the three in-state schools with the most participants will win monetary prizes.
“Girls Go CyberStart provides high school girls with an opportunity to boost their self-confidence while working together as a team and learning the technical skills necessary to enter the 21st century workforce,” said Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. “This fun coding competition is just one of the many ways that we can empower a new generation of women in Maryland to pursue occupations in STEM.”
Last year, 10,350 high school girls from 27 states participated in the competition. In Maryland, 671 girls participated, an increase of 66% from the previous year. The number of Maryland teachers who introduced the program to their students increased to 64 from the 23 that participated in the previous year.
This year, the Maryland Department of Labor, Maryland State Department of Education, Governor’s Workforce Development Board, and the SANS Institute will continue to collaborate to encourage young women to register and participate in this exciting opportunity.
“The rapid growth and success of this program shows how important it is to give female students a wide range of opportunities to develop their computer science expertise,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field with limitless potential for the future, and we are proud to help our students engage and learn these skills.”
One Wootton High School student shared the transformative value of participating in the competition, “At first, these competitions were just for fun, to spend time with my friends. However, as the year progressed, I started to take these competitions more seriously, and it wasn’t until after I competed in Girls Go CyberStart that I started to consider cybersecurity as a potential major for myself in the future. From getting stuck on the challenges provided by Girls Go CyberStart and getting frustrated, to looking through the field manual for help, and finally solving challenges that I at first thought I couldn’t do, it made me realize how much I have learned about cybersecurity and how much there is still to learn. Now, as I am applying to colleges, I am selecting cybersecurity as my first choice major.”
The Governor's Workforce Development Board (GWDB) has partnered with the SANS Institute for the last two rounds of the Girls Go CyberStart competition to spread the word among businesses and educators. The GWDB is a business-led board of 53 members, who work together with additional stakeholders to address the challenges of Maryland's workforce needs in the 21st century.
"The Governor's Workforce Development Board is thrilled to support initiatives like the Girls Go CyberStart competition to ensure Maryland students have a fun, interactive, and informative opportunity to explore careers in cybersecurity," said GWDB Executive Director Michael DiGiacomo.
With the growing importance of STEM on our nation’s workforce, the Girls Go CyberStart initiative can help female students increase their understanding of science and technology and address the gender disparity in the STEM fields.
“The cyber skills challenge in America can be solved only if millions of students have a chance to discover whether they might enjoy the types of problems they will encounter in cybersecurity careers,” SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said. “I was very impressed by Maryland’s outreach programs and the talent they discovered among students all over the state.”
Registration is now open, so please visit www.girlsgocyberstart.org to learn more. The site includes a full description of the game, answers to common questions, teacher information, and sample challenges for students. Online gaming begins on January 13, 2020.