Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday (Oct. 4) announced a $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to the University of Central Arkansas that will help fund development of a cyber range, or simulated computer network, for the use of cyber security training.
The range complements UCA’s development of an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in cyber security that is expected to begin in fall 2018, and a new partnership with the Arkansas Education Television Network will broaden the reach of the education tool to K-12 students, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
UCA’s cyber security degree program will be supported by the UCA College of Business, College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
With the presence of a cyber range, UCA will be one of only a few higher-education institutions in the country to have the cutting-edge technology, according to the governor’s office, and the arrangement with AETN to reach elementary and secondary students makes it “a first-of-its-kind operation, because both higher education and K-12 curriculum will be at the range’s foundation.”
Using the cyber range, students may learn how to identify cyberattacks and defend against them within a simulated environment.
“We proposed bringing a cyber range here to UCA in support of our developing a cyber security degree program,” UCA’s dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Steven Addison, said in the release. “With the cyber range, we will be able to inject viruses onto the range without putting a free roaming virus on the internet. Students will be able to learn cyber security in real-time systems.”
Gov. Hutchinson said the move plays into a broader statewide computer science education initiative, which he began shortly after taking office more than two years ago with a push to implement computer science in every high school in Arkansas.
“The cyber range means UCA will have state-of-the-art technology that will be available through AETN to Arkansas students, both in high school and college,” Gov. Hutchinson said, according to the press release. “This represents the next step in our computer science initiative. One which I know will keep Arkansas as a national leader in technology education.
“UCA’s partnership with AETN is unique and will allow broader access to the cyber range by students and educational partners across Arkansas,” he said.
UCA and ATEN also announced the signing of an agreement between the two entities to partner “to develop cyber security, coding, computer programming, computer science and other curricula in Arkansas schools.”
“AETN is committed to computer-science education for Arkansas students,” Courtney Pledger, AETN director, said in the release. “Our education team is enthusiastic to partner with UCA on cyber security training. We’re eager to use our online media tools through this initiative to prepare students for opportunities in future-facing technologies.”
Cyber ranges have long been utilized for the national security, but this is the first time Arkansas students will have access to the technology, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Hutchinson was joined by Addison and also UCA President Houston Davis for the announcement in the governor’s conference room at the State Capitol.
“This is another opportunity for students at UCA to gain real-world experience and to develop and enhance skills needed in today’s ever-changing technological world,” President Davis said. “We are appreciative of the support from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his office, as well as his efforts to shift the landscape around computer science and technological education in Arkansas.”