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Conference Proceeding

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Cybersecurity is an important concept in today’s age of information and is of major interest to keep information secure, helping to protect sensitive information in the presence of untrusted third-parties. This has presented the need for an implemented hardware variant of secure algorithms with small footprint to help add protection while reducing processing time/overhead on a standard processor.

In this work we present two hands-on projects that are designed specifically to teach these two concepts using project-based learning techniques in an innovative cooperative learning environment. The learning environment served to combine both student-peer learning and jigsaw strategies.

The technical contents of the first project teach students the process and methodologies of designing and testing the hardware implementation of a block cipher encryption, the Advanced Encryption Standard, on a field-programmable gate array. The second project builds on the first by introducing the hardware implementation of hash message authentication codes through the Whirlpool hash function in three different operating modes.

The objective of this work is to present an innovative teaching environment for these hands-on encryption algorithm-based projects using cooperative learning rather than a traditional mode of lecturing with given homework assignments. This environment encouraged students to think thoroughly, out-of-the-box, gain problem-solving skills, and improve their communication of technical concepts to peers through the delivery of student-led lectures.

The assessment of student learning is accomplished by a mixture of presentations with peer evaluations, instructor evaluations, and thorough grading of project reports. End-of-course evaluations were positive regarding the learning environment and technical skills gained by students. For this work one assigned hands-on project for students working in groups resulted in unique per-group implementations, where in the second project, this led to different project perspectives and additions beyond a standard assigned project, enhanced by student-peer teaching. Students effectively learned and comprehended many different implementations of a widely used encryption and authentication algorithm via our modified teaching techniques.

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© 2019, American Society for Engineering Education, Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference, Tampa, FL.