To increase minority students’ participation, particularly African Americans in cyber fields, STEM engineering education requires a new approach to student learning. Students learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. The concept of gamification is an emerging alternative approach that adds game elements to traditional instruction, engaging students in learning engineering concepts. In recent years, capture-the-flag competitions have emerged as a gamification approach to training and building students’ interest in cybersecurity.
During the spring 2019 academic term, a team of students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of Morgan State University participated in an embedded capture-the-flag (eCTF) competition organized by MITRE. The eCTF was also offered as a graduate course in the department. This graduate course included a cohort of minority students who had been exposed to fundamental concepts regarding secure embedded systems. We found that the eCTF allowed students to work in teams, develop critical thinking skills, address complex technical issues associated with real-world applications, and motivated continued learning and increased research productivity after the course ended. This paper aims to describe the design and implementation of the eCTF competition in the graduate course and summarize the successes and the barriers that impact the engagement of minority students in cybersecurity.
To read more, check out the full paper here. To see other SPLICE publications, check out our Zotero page here.
Michel A. Kornegay, Md Tanvir Arafin, and Kevin Kornegay. Engaging Underrepresented Students in Cybersecurity using Capture-the-Flag(CTF) Competitions (Experience). 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. July 2021. https://peer.asee.org/37048
Morgan State University has been recognized for proposing “innovative approaches to cybersecurity education and professional development that […] will support students [and] increase the vitality of cybersecurity preparedness for the nation.” This recognition includes $3.1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CyberCorps Scholarship program to provide full scholarships and stipends to students who agree to work in cybersecurity jobs for federal, state, local or tribal governments after graduation.
The CyberCorps Scholarship funding will be used to provide students with a unique educational program in secure embedded systems through the Secure Embedded Systems Scholarship (SES2). The program begins with recruitment, and continues with mentorship and financial support for students pursuing BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees. SES2 supports students holistically, by leveraging peer and professional mentorship, experimental learning activities, and a comprehensive curriculum in embedded systems.
Congratulations to Morgan State University, the Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center, and SPLICE PIs Kevin and Michel Kornegay, who will be leading this effort. To learn more, check out NSF’s previous announcement about the CyberCorps Scholarship program here, and the CAP Center at Morgan State’s announcement here.
This past week, professors Kevin Kornegay and Michel Kornegay spoke with the CEO of Shift5, Josh Lospinoso, about Morgan State University’s unique approach to cultivating an environment of success in cybersecurity. Professors Kevin and Michel Kornegay are the Director and Associate Director, respectively, of Morgan State’s Cybersecurity Assurance and Policy (CAP) Center, which is home to the CREAM Lab (Center for Reverse Engineering and Assured Microelectronics of the School of Engineering).
First, it’s important to understand the necessity of cybersecurity research and implementation. New technologies with increasing capabilities enabled by wireless transmissions, data collection, and data processing, have allowed analog devices to be replaced with digital devices on the consumer level. And with consumers’ desire for new functionalities and features driving industry decisions, security protocols often fall to the wayside. But it’s all too common to hear of hacked toys, water systems being tampered with, and even our government being put at risk because of a lack of cybersecurity.
The CAP Center at Morgan State is unique in its methodology to ensure that students are adequately prepared for and provided with options in the cybersecurity realm — whether it be continuing in academia or transitioning into industry. And partnerships are part of this success. The industry partnerships that the Center has fostered have been essential to the development of the students in its programs. On the one hand, they provide industry mentorship, so that students can have hands-on experience outside of the lab. On the other hand, working with industry partners allows for a constant flow of information which keeps the research, education, and work of the program up-to-date with emerging cybersecurity threats and skills needed to stay ahead of the curve.
But the key to the program’s success? Professors Michel and Kevin Kornegay’s devotion to their students and the learning process. The importance of a “pipeline” can not be understated when it comes to encouraging students from underrepresented groups into cybersecurity. Michel has extended that pipeline to start even earlier, with a summer program specifically designed to get middle school girls in the Baltimore area interested in cybersecurity. Both Kevin and Michel speak about the hands-on experimental activities and active-learning experiences that students are immediately a part of when they enter into PhD programs in the lab. Kevin speaks about a new PhD program at Morgan State – Secure Embedded Systems – focusing on a wide variety of competencies necessary to tackle multifaceted cybersecurity issues. The unique program enables students to work with architectures, protocols, AI, and cryptography, spanning the processor, communication, and application aspects of cybersecurity. This program is so unique that it’s the only one in the state of Maryland.
As the Kornegays say in their conversation with Josh from Shift5, opportunity and preparation are both necessary for the success of their students. By working with industry partners who are on-board with their mission, the professors keep a finger on the pulse of emerging technologies, and are able to provide internship experiences and industry mentorship to their students. And the Kornegays work with their students to meet them where they’re at – recognizing that students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, so a one-size-fits all approach cannot work. And the results, seen by the achievements of their students, the growth of the CAP Center and CREAM lab, and increasing partnerships, prove the success of the Kornegays’ methods.
To hear more from their conversation, check out the video below. To get involved with supporting students in exploring cybersecurity, check out the Gen Cyber program. To learn more about the Kornegays’ work with SPLICE, check out the rest of this website.