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Computer In Engineering Essay Contests

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Graduate student Nicolas Papernot won second place in an essay contest with the topic "Cyberspace 2025: Navigating the Future of Cyberspace Policy," sponsored by Microsoft.

The contest welcomed original research from students of any university level and challenged students to think about how cyberspace will be in 10 years.

According to the Microsoft website, "Cybersecurity is a policy priority for many governments, yet there is limited understanding of how policy choices made today will impact a country's cyberspace tomorrow."

Papernot, a computer science and engineering student in a double master of science degree program between Penn State and Ecole Centrale de Lyon in France, wrote that cybersecurity should evolve to take up new challenges raised by current technological trends.

Each writer was asked to address topics predicting cybersecurity and world conditions in 2025, such as priority cybersecurity issues, the priority actions that should be taken by stakeholders to improve cybersecurity and what impacts on societies and economies will ensuring or failing to ensure cybersecurity have.

Papernot discussed how the technological landscape is currently disrupted by innovative concepts like cloud computing, the Internet of Things and greater connectivity to the Internet.

"I argue that the cyberspace of 2025 will be shaped in a way such that addressing new security risks and threats will require the creation of a rigorous science of security," Papernot said. "I believe it to be the only way to reduce the current asymmetry that favors attackers and makes it impossible to design a 100 percent secure computer system."

Various stakeholders (governments, businesses, academia, nongovernmental organizations) are involved in computer security, but they must collaborate for their actions to have a significant impact on the security of our cyberspace, Papernot explained.

In his essay, he mentioned the example of the Cyber-Security Collaborative Research Alliance, a consortium led by his adviser, computer science and engineering professor Patrick McDaniel. It is aimed at developing the foundations of a science of security.

"I am currently contributing to this consortium by developing system reconfigurations," Papernot said. "The goal of these reconfigurations is to adapt a computer system to the evolving risks, threats and environment in order to improve its overall security." 

The top three essayists won prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

Papernot said he plans to use his $3,000 to buy equipment to continue experimenting with computer security.

Essay Contest Rules

Permission Form – Required

Official Entry Form – Required

In honor of National Inventors Month in August, Inventors Digest magazine and partners are sponsoring the 2059 Essay Contest for middle school and high school students.

Your assignment: What will the world look like in 2059?

In 1959, the internal pacemaker, the microchip, the Barbie doll and pantyhose were invented. Each was significant in its own right. But that was so 50 years ago.

Show us in 500 words or less what technology, tool, product or service will shape our lives in 2059 and why. The Grand Prize includes:

-A laptop computer

-Your essay published in Inventors Digest

-A year’s subscription to the magazine

-Possible appearance on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Everyday Edisons

-A killer T-shirt

-Brain-teaser games

Eligibility: All middle school and high school students ages 12-17 in the United States. Grand prizes will be awarded for best middle school and high school entries. North Carolina and South Carolina entrants also are eligible for the regional Grand Prize, an iPod, courtesy of

Entry rules: Download official entry and all permission forms below. All essays must be original work of the student. Only 1 (ONE) entry per student. Submit essays and forms to Inventors Digest, with Essay Contest in the subject line or mail to Inventors Digest, Essay Contest, 520 Elliot St., Ste. 200, Charlotte, NC 28202 or fax to 704.333.5115. Include your birth date, school, address and phone number.

Criteria: Entries will be judged on clarity and vision of how we will use new technology or products in the year 2059. Winning essays will demonstrate imagination rooted in science and engineering principles. In other words, the best essays will show what’s possible as well as practical.

Deadlines: Submit essays by Sept. 30, 2009. All entries must be postmarked by Sept. 30, 2009.

Winners will be notified on or by Nov. 26, 2009.

Contact us at or call 704.369.7312 ext. 219 for more information.