Related Activities

Visible to the public

Lead: Kevin Nolten seeks to develop a pilot K-12 academic feeder program for Grambling State University (GSU) in Northern Louisiana. GSU is the first university in the state of Louisiana to launch a cybersecurity undergraduate degree. GSU’s Bachelor of Science Degree in Cybersecurity is growing the most equipped generation of professionals to strengthen the security and resilience of cyberspace in America and across the globe. The 120 credit-hour degree connects students with research leaders and working professionals who specialize in combating cyber-crimes, big data, cloud computing, vulnerably assessment, and more.’s proven K-12 model will be imbedded into one to four (depending on funding level) high schools across Caddo Parish (parish which the city of Shreveport is located). The identified schools include Huntington High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Southwood High School, and the Caddo Career and Technology Center. Integrating’s curricula into these high schools will have the support of the Louisiana State Department of Education as all’s high school course offerings have state approval and are a part of state-wide pathways that focus on cybersecurity. As demonstrated with the pilot study, looks to imbed curricula into the Caddo Parish high schools, thus replicating results seen at other universities and bolster GSU’s freshmen enrollment, specifically in cybersecurity.

Cyber Makerspace

Lead: Akos Ledeczi (Vanderbilt University)

Makerspaces are very popular because they provide a hands-on experience for young learners to experiment with technology. One drawback is that the focus of educational experiences in makerspaces are necessarily on the hardware. Computing aspects, especially more advanced concepts such as cybersecurity, take a back seat. We will team up with Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School (a public school with 60% minority student population in Nashville) to pilot a cyber makerspace, where students build virtual robots, including advanced sensors and actuators that they would never have access to in a physical makerspace, and the virtual worlds the robots live in. In addition, students will need to implement the desired behavior of the robots to solve challenges including ones related to cybersecurity. The cyber makerspace will make it possible to teach advanced concepts in a practical and hands-on, yet playful manner that will result in high level of engagement and consequently, highly effective learning.

This project builds upon our prior work with NetsBlox, an open source, browser-based visual programming environment and corresponding cloud-infrastructure. NetsBlox integrates distributed programming capabilities at a level accessible for novice programmers through two conceptually simple, yet powerful abstractions: Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs) and message passing. They enable students to create engaging projects such as programs that access online data source and services such as Google Maps, weather data, stock quotes and many more, as well as distributed programs such online multiplayer games or a chatroom. 

Networked physical devices can also be accessed using the same abstractions. For example, students get to write programs to remotely control WiFi-enabled robot vehicles in a setting where other students can intercept the wireless commands and hijack each other’s robots. This practice provides the motivation and a physical testbed to teach cybersecurity in a hands-on, practical manner. NetsBlox also enables Google Docs-like collaboration. In this shared synchronous online environment, students can work on a common project from their own computers regardless of their geographic location. This type of collaboration results in rich and diverse opportunities that have been shown to improve the perceptions, confidence and performance of students underrepresented in STEM.

The concept behind funding for the Vanderbilt and activities was to provide “bootstrap funding” to high school feeders in communities of selected HBCU institutions with the goal to encourage mentorship to students who might engage in technical projects. “Bootstrap funding” is to be focused on helping to make the case for the value of such activities within the high school, enabling the schools to participate in the experiment while offsetting the initial risk. The premise is that once the value proposition, students engaged and doing technical projects in support of all kinds of interests, is seen the high schools and communities will put in their own resources to sustain such activities.