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EPIC Cyber Range Pilot Launches to 17 Schools in Texas

Published on September 15, 2020 by Faith Singer-Villalobos



TACC's EPIC Cyber Range pilot launched today with 17 secondary schools throughout Texas to help students gain hands-on cybersecurity skills to protect companies and organizations from data breaches.

A cyber range is an environment where virtual machines are used to work on and learn about various tools, techniques, and systems in a secure network to simulate real-world challenges faced from hackers.

"Making cybersecurity courses rigorous and accessible to a diverse range of students in Texas high schools is an economic imperative in today's technology dependent world," said Carol Fletcher, director of Expanding Pathways in Computing (EPIC) at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin.

"If Texas wants to be a leader in the cybersecurity field, more schools and students must have access to the kinds of real-world exercises that students can engage in safely through a cyber range," she said.

This one-year pilot is now available thanks to a U.S. Department of Education grant called Lone Star STEM, which is a partnership between EPIC, the Texas Education Agency, and Jobs for the Future. The partnership is designed to help schools develop and support rigorous pathways in cybersecurity and computer science that will lead to industry certifications and post-secondary success.

"The pilot will help us determine a business model for supporting and expanding the cyber range to additional Texas campuses beyond those in this grant," Fletcher said. "Our goal, once we understand more fully the needs of high school teachers and students, is to garner additional financial support from the state of Texas and/or industry partners to make the EPIC Cyber Range low-to-no cost for participating campuses."

Left: Carol Fletcher, Director of Expanding Pathways in Computing (EPIC) at the Texas Advanced Computing Center; Right: Nikki Hendricks, EPIC Cybersecurity Education Specialist

Henry Vo, director of a computer science at Richardson High School, will participate in the pilot.

"I look forward to assisting in growing a cyber range available for Texas high school students to understand cybersecurity concepts," he said. "Being part of a pilot means making sure it's suitable for teachers, students, and schools with various needs, backgrounds, and technology capabilities."

One of the ways the EPIC Cyber Range differentiates itself is by leveraging the use of supercomputing resources at TACC to run the virtual environment.

"TACC is one of the few institutions with the computing and technical capacity to build a cyber range like this," Fletcher said. "We hope to bring this resource to educators and the state as a whole for less than what it would cost schools to purchase access from a third-party vendor, saving our taxpayers money and providing a homegrown solution to growing the cybersecurity education infrastructure in our state."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for jobs in information security is projected at 37 percent from 2012–2022 — that's much faster than the average for all other occupations. With so many jobs available, and the need to fill them so dire, more colleges are offering degrees in cybersecurity, though it has yet to become a staple in undergraduate coursework.

Said Nikki Hendricks, EPIC cybersecurity education specialist: "The EPIC Cyber Range will give students the opportunity to grow their talent now. Industry certifications and good paying careers are accessible to high school graduates or those with associate degrees, making cybersecurity a great career for individuals who are technically adept, but may not be interested in immediately attending a four-year institution."

The Texas schools participating in the EPIC Cyber Range pilot are:

  • iSchool STEM ACADEMY Lewisville
  • Mercedes High School
  • Rembrandt Secondary
  • Sam Houston High School
  • Shallowater High School
  • South Grand Prairie High School
  • CC Winn HS / Eagle Pass High School
  • Career Institute North
  • Cooper High School
  • Dr. Gene Burton College and Career Academy
  • Floresville High School
  • Lake Travis High School
  • Lubbock High School
  • MacArthur High School
  • Medina Valley High School
  • Richardson High School
  • Tornillo High School

For more information, please contact Nikki Hendricks with EPIC at nhendricks@tacc.utexas.edu.


Story Highlights

In September 2020, TACC's EPIC Cyber Range pilot launched with 17 secondary schools throughout Texas to help students gain hands-on cybersecurity skills.

A cyber range is an environment where virtual machines are used to work on and learn about various tools, techniques, and systems in a secure network to simulate real-world challenges faced from hackers.

This one-year pilot is designed to help schools develop and support rigorous pathways in cybersecurity and computer science that will lead to industry certifications and post-secondary success.

One of the ways the EPIC Cyber Range differentiates itself is by leveraging the use of supercomputing resources at TACC to run the virtual environment.


Contact

Faith Singer-Villalobos

Communications Manager
faith@tacc.utexas.edu | 512-232-5771

Aaron Dubrow

Science And Technology Writer
aarondubrow@tacc.utexas.edu

Jorge Salazar

Technical Writer/Editor
jorge@tacc.utexas.edu | 512-475-9411