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Computer Projects Designed To Enhance Student’s Learning Experience With Public Key Cryptography

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Industry based new Innovative and Nontraditional Curriculum in Industrial Technology and Industrial Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.305.1 - 15.305.8



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Paper Authors


Xuefu Zhou

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Xuefu Zhou received the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 2002 and 2006, respectively, both from the University of Cincinnati where he joined the faculty as an assistant professor in September 2005. From July 1995 to August 2000, he worked as a R&D Engineer, then Senior Engineer and Project Manager in the industry designing and developing distributed computer control systems, real-time embedded systems for various process controls. His research interests lie in the general areas of wireless communications and networking and wireless network security.

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Xiaodong Yue

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Xiaodong Yue received his Ph.D in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2004.
He is currently with the University of Central Missouri as an Associate Professor of Computer Science.
His research interests include wireless communications and signal processing.

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James Everly

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James O. Everly is an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati. He is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a registered professional engineer in the state of Ohio. In 1997 he received the IEEE Professional Achievement Award. He has held several research and management positions in industry working for such companies as Battelle's Columbus Laboratories, Rockwell International, and Claspan Corporation.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Computer Projects Designed to Enhance Student’s Learning Experience with Public-Key Cryptography


Cryptography plays a fundamental role in safeguarding today’s information infrastructure. Public-key cryptography is a cryptographic approach utilized by many cryptographic algorithms and cryptosystems. In contrast to symmetric key systems, it eliminates the need to share a key secretly. This distinguishing characteristic makes it a widely and successfully used technology around the world. It is the foundation for public-key infrastructure (PKI) and Internet standards such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). A thorough understanding of public-key cryptography is indispensable to not only engineering and science students, but also engineering technology students in the general fields of computing, networking, communications and information technology.

This paper describes an approach to teaching public-key cryptography to electrical and computer engineering technology students utilizing three computer projects designed to provide hands-on experience with public-key cryptography. These projects introduce students JAVA BigInteger class and its built-in methods and open source cryptography libraries such as crypto++ allowing students develop public-key cryptographic applications. Instead of using a small modulus for solely instructional demonstration, these projects allow student’s natural curiosity to be stimulated and result in a deeper understanding of real world applications. To date, feedback from students has been very positive.


With the increasing dependence of industry, businesses, education and society on computing and digital communications, the need for providing security through effective and efficient cryptographic algorithms has became more important than ever. Cryptography is the science of using mathematics to encrypt and decrypt data. Besides its traditional role of ensuring confidentiality, it has been utilized to ensure integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation which are the basic requirements in today’s information systems or data communications. It is imperative to teach cryptography to students in the general areas of computing, information, networking and data communications. Recently, educators have also confirmed the importance of teaching encryption basics to general students 1.

Public-key cryptography is one of the major topics in our computer security course. Thought students seem to be very interested in this topic, teaching public-key cryptography is somewhat challenging since understanding the theory requires a high level of mathematical knowledge and skills. This particularly presents a challenge to engineering technology students. This paper shares our experience of teaching engineering technology students public-key cryptography. The paper is organized as follows. First, it briefly introduces the public-key cryptography basics and describes our approach to teach public-key cryptography. Then, it describes the computer projects we developed to enhance the student’s learning experience. Finally, it illustrates the

Zhou, X., & Yue, X., & Everly, J. (2010, June), Computer Projects Designed To Enhance Student’s Learning Experience With Public Key Cryptography Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16127

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