Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Cyber Operations


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Laurence D. Merkle, PhD.


This thesis assesses and expands the potential of extracurricular activities to address the shortage of cybersecurity workers by increasing secondary school students’ interest in these careers. Competitions and badges, two forms of gamification often applied in extracurricular educational activities, have potential to improve motivation and increase interest in related careers, but are significantly understudied in the context of cybersecurity activities. CyberPatriot is the largest cybersecurity competition in the United States for secondary school students. Impact on participants’ career interests is assessed by analyzing responses to recent surveys conducted by the competition organizers. Analysis demonstrates significantly increased interest in cybersecurity in several dimensions relevant to career selection, significantly larger increases for females than males, and persistence of increased interest over time. A survey of U.S. Air Force enlisted members is designed to gauge the impact of cyber-related education activities on developing its cyber workforce. Cybersecurity activity options are expanded by creating a flexible age-appropriate digital forensics activity in which students analyze forensic evidence in folders and files, reconstructing user activity to answer some basic questions. A cybersecurity merit badge is proposed for the Boy Scouts of America with suggested requirements modeled on other successful technology-related merit badges.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number