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.

While most efforts in cybersecurity education target students at the secondary and postsecondary level, this project focuses instead on middle school students. It is critical 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.

Learning About Cybersecurity and Technology through Games

Careers in cybersecurity and/or STEM generally require a high degree of creative problem-solving, emergent negotiated action in groups, making sense of complexity that seems chaotic, and other “21st century skills.” 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. The game effectively simulates the habitual actions of cybersecurity professionals while also teaching them about and promoting this field of study and its associated careers, while also teaching students to adopt safe cybersecurity habits.

CySec’s collectible card game (CCG) is similar to other popular battle card games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Ghi-Oh!, Pokémon, and Cardfight Vanguard. It is designed to teach habits that have become second nature to cybersecurity professionals to underrepresented groups of middle school children (grades 6-8), meeting the needs of where those students are both culturally and developmentally.