Press Releases  |  9.14.2020

Challenger Center Awarded NSF Project EAGER Grant Alongside Carnegie Mellon University and RAND Corporation

WASHINGTON DC – September 14, 2020 – Challenger Center, a leading science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education organization, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study students’ understanding of cybersecurity threats, their ability to detect such threats, and how these threats can be mitigated within diverse populations.

The project, launched September 1, will present students and educators from K-12 and higher education with factual STEM content and AI-generated, inaccurate STEM content and ask them to determine its legitimacy.

“Our world has seen a dramatic increase in both cybersecurity attacks and reliance on digital learning options at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s imperative that educators can provide trusted and factual learning materials for students of all backgrounds,” said Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “This study will provide organizations with information that will help guide us into a more trustworthy digital environment. We’re looking forward to our studies and couldn’t be more excited to work with the world-renowned researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and RAND Corporation.”

Challenger Center (K-12), Carnegie Mellon University (higher education), and RAND Corporation (the workforce) will each focus on the sets of learners they have the most connection and experience with, while sharing their collective data amongst one another in effort to show the variability in each demographic’s ability to detect threats and misinformation. Challenger Center will partner with three of its Challenger Learning Centers for this study.

“It is critical for society to understand the threats that may compromise the veracity of information and computer networks,” said Conrad Tucker, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “We are therefore motivated by the need to understand how susceptible different segments of society (both humans and computers) are to the potential for AI-generated misinformation.”

“This study is an important step towards building societal defenses against AI-generated threats,” said Jared Mondschein, associate physical scientist at the RAND Corporation. “As COVID-19 is forcing students to rely on online learning platforms more than ever before, it’s important to understand how vulnerable educators and learners may be to fake content readily available on social media platforms and what potential defenses may look like.”

The study is expected to conclude by August 2021.

For more information about Challenger Center, please visit or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

About Challenger Center
As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center provides more than 250,000 students annually with experiential education programs that engage students in hands-on learning opportunities. These programs, delivered in Challenger Learning Centers and classrooms, strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Challenger Center was created by the Challenger families to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L. For more information about Challenger Center, please visit or connect on Facebook and Twitter. 

About the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University              

The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is a top-ranked engineering college that is known for our intentional focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration in research. The College is well-known for working on problems of both scientific and practical importance. Our “maker” culture is ingrained in all that we do, leading to novel approaches and transformative results. Our acclaimed faculty have a focus on innovation management and engineering to yield transformative results that will drive the intellectual and economic vitality of our community, nation and world.

About The RAND Corporation   

The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.

RAND’s research and analysis address issues that impact people around the world, including security, health, education, sustainability, growth, and development. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures.