News Release

CIAS K-12 Cybersecurity Program awarded grant to expand cybersecurity awareness nationwide

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas at San Antonio

MAY 21, 2021 -- The Gula Tech Foundation has awarded UTSA's Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) a $250,000 grant to raise public awareness about cybersecurity. The foundation distributed $1 million in grants across seven winners, with the CIAS being recognized as its first-place recipient.

The CIAS K-12 Cybersecurity Program promotes a culture of cybersecurity by engaging students and families in K-12 classrooms. The foundation's grant will help the program provide tools and resources at no cost to educators that expand cybersecurity awareness across all ages and backgrounds.

"We are very appreciative of this grant -- it's the single largest gift our program has received," said Larry Sjelin, chief of staff and director of game development at the CIAS. "The Gula Tech Foundation's focus on overall data care and good cyber hygiene aligns perfectly with our focus of creating a more secure nation and a workforce pipeline through a comprehensive cybersecurity program."

"This grant," he added, "will serve to expand our community outreach efforts and create a strong foundation for cyber awareness in students and their families."

The UTSA team was awarded the grant following a competitive selection process for cybersecurity nonprofits.

"The issue of data care is one of the many reasons we launched and founded The Gula Tech Foundation. General population awareness of cybersecurity issues is foundational to our fight against threat actors," said Ron and Cyndi Gula, co-founders of The Gula Tech Foundation. "The winning nonprofits and runners-up truly are fielding this very difficult mission of raising public awareness and doing so in ways that involve the entire community."

This grant's second runner-up, Cybercrime Support Network, is receiving $200,000 and the third-place finisher, National Cryptologic Foundation, is receiving $150,000. The final four runners-up, each receiving $100,000, include Partners in Care Maryland, Inc., One in Tech, an ISACA Foundation, National Cyber Center and Theorem Media Inc.

The foundation's grant will enable the CIAS K-12 Cybersecurity Program to provide complementary classroom boxes of tabletop card games that introduce students, as young as five-years-old, to cybersecurity principles and defense strategies. The three games are: Cyber Threat Guardian (grades K-2); Cyber Threat Protector (grades 3-5); and Cyber Threat Defender: The Collectible Card Game (grades 6+).

"We're very proud of our Cyber Threat trilogy of games. While each game targets a specific age group, young learners can build upon their cybersecurity knowledge as they move up grade levels," Sjelin added. "There aren't very many cybersecurity programs that interact with students at the elementary level, but these tools are helping students as young as five to build a solid foundation of good cyber hygiene. We live in an interconnected world, so it's important to create a culture of cybersecurity community wide now."

Since launching the CIAS K-12 Cybersecurity Program in 2016, more than 50,000 card decks have been distributed throughout the U.S. and 16 countries, reaching up to 250,000 students. The grant will support the distribution of an additional 50,000 decks over the next two years.

The program also provides free cybersecurity and technology focused activity sheets, targeting grades K-5, and free electronic cybersecurity games. The grant will further serve to raise awareness of these community-accessible resources through various outreach efforts.

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UTSA is a national leader in pioneering cybersecurity research and academics and a nationally-recognized Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense. It's home to one of the top cybersecurity programs in the nation, a new School of Data Science that's the first in Texas, and the National Security Collaboration Center.


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