While most efforts in cybersecurity education target students at the secondary and postsecondary level, this project focuses instead on middle school students. It is critically important to target children at this younger age because this is the period before they typically lose interest in STEM areas and leak out of the proverbial pipelines that lead to STEM careers. By targeting students earlier, we can inspire them to take courses in high school that will prepare them for postsecondary education, and set them up for success. This is even more important for the groups that are underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity. Students from underrepresented groups of this younger age are typically unaware of cybersecurity careers and what they entail.
The habits of mind and habitual actions of cybersecurity professionals, and STEM professionals generally, involve a high degree of creative problem solving, emergent negotiated action in groups, making sense of complexity that seems chaotic, and other “21st century skills.” need to feel a sense of identification with STEM fields and endeavors. This project aims at helping middle school students learn the habits that have become second nature to cybersecurity professionals in a way that is culturally and developmentally appropriate and that effectively simulates the habitual actions of cybersecurity professionals while also teaching them about and promoting this field of study, associated careers, and also teaching them, at this young age, to adopt safe cybersecurity habits. This project will create a collectible card game (CCG) similar to other battle card games (such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Ghi-Oh!, Pokémon, and Cardfight Vanguard) for teaching the habits that have become second nature to cybersecurity professionals to underrepresented groups of middle school children (grades 6-8). This CCG will be designed to meet the needs of middle grade students where they are both culturally and developmentally.
CySec is a collectible card game developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago through funding from the National Science Foundation. The game designed to teach urban middle school students about the principles of CyberSecurity and to increase their enthusiasm to pursue a career in CyberSecurity. Currently, CySec is in the Beta testing phase and will be available online for free in the fall of 2018.