GenCyber Hawai‘i

Preparing Today’s Youth to Protect Tomorrow’s Cyber Future

Disney. Toyota. Facebook. Google. Citi.  They all share the mantle of being some of the world’s most influential, recognizable and profitable companies. Unfortunately, they along with many other Fortune 500 companies also share a more dubious commonality—they have all been the victims of a cyberattack.

While companies have invested in robust cybersecurity protection measures, the sheer numbers of bad actors ranging from hostile foreign governments to the teenage hacker operating out of his/her bedroom—have made it increasing difficult for cybersecurity experts to stay ahead of the curve. To combat this ever growing threat, it has become paramount to educate and create a new generation of cyber-savvy students ready to enter the workforce in this critical area.

One such effort is the GenCyber Program, a national movement to increase interest in cybersecurity careers for students and teachers, while diversifying the cybersecurity workforce in the United States. The mission is simple: to ensure that enough young people are interested and inspired to direct their talents into this vital field of protecting the country’s national and economic security in an internet-connected space.

In Hawai‘i, the statewide effort led by the University of Hawai‘i in partnership with the National Security Agency (NSA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Pacific Center for Advanced Technical Training (PCATT), Hawai‘i Department of Education, CyberHawaiʻi and the Maui Economic Development Board. Since 2015, the program known locally as GenCyber Hawai‘i, has hosted 25 student camps and 25 teacher camps that have engaged and enriched 683 K-12 students and 701 K-12 teachers from across the state.

“The GenCyber Hawai‘i camps are an important first introduction for students to learn about information technology and cybersecurity in a fun, hands-on and engaging learning environment,’ said Jodi Ito, chief information security officer for the University of Hawai‘i and lead coordinator of GenCyber Hawai‘i. “For the teachers, it provides them with the necessary roadmap, tools and curriculum to help them prepare their students for a potential future in this vital, high-demand field.”

Prior experience in cybersecurity is not needed to participate in GenCyber Hawai‘i and the camps are offered at no cost to participants with funding provided jointly by the NSA and the NSF. Topics include introductions to cybersecurity, how the internet works, networking, cyber forensics, computer science, and cryptography. Additionally, students learn about being a good digital citizen, cybersecurity ethics, cyber hygiene, spotting fraud and phishing attacks, and group problem solving exercises that closely simulates the teamwork often necessary as a cybersecurity analyst.

Another highlight at the GenCyber Hawai‘i camp is the mini career and education fair. This popular event allows both parents and students to learn more about cybersecurity and the different career opportunities available from local employers, such as the NSA, FBI, Hawaiian Telcom, Bank of Hawaiʻi, CIO Council of Hawai‘i, University of Hawai‘i and others.

The one-week camp culminates with an exciting capture-the-flag type event that has participants team up to utilize their newly acquired skills to hack and defend their way to victory. Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer, is used throughout the camp to help students learn programming skills, build hardware projects, and explore how find ways to secure the Internet of Things (IoT).  Each student is given a Raspberry Pi to take home.

“GenCyber Hawai‘i has allowed me to pursue my passion of cybersecurity and computer science,” said one student. “Every day I looked forward to camp because I know that I will be constantly developing my skills not only in the realm of cybersecurity, but also soft skills such as collaborating with others.”

For teachers, GenCyber Hawai‘i serves as a professional development course that enables them to provide their students with the necessary tools to become safe and responsible users of the internet. Teaching materials provided are aligned with the appropriate standards, includes lesson plans, technology starter kits, classroom project ideas, and access to a GenCyber teacher network to help with additional resources and promote collaborative efforts. As a result, GenCyber-trained teachers are now better prepared and equipped to help students develop clear avenues to post-secondary educational opportunities and career pathways.

“Especially in this day and age I cannot stress enough the importance of the GenCyber Program for Teachers,” said Ken Kang, technology coordinator at Aiea High School and 2017 Milken Educator Award recipient. “The lessons and hands-on experiences cannot be overstated as a valuable resource for not only my students, but also for me as an educator and my practices with technology and the cyber systems around us.”

Information and registration for future GenCyber Hawai‘i camps can be accessed at