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Bennett Awards Creates Interactive Custom Awards for Levchin Prize

Bennett Awards created a set of unique interactive custom awards for the Levchin Prize. The Levchin Prize honors significant contributions to real-world cryptology. Cryptology is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties called adversaries. The Levchin Prize celebrates recent advances that have had a major impact on the practice of cryptology and its use in real-world systems. This recognition award was established in 2015 by Internet entrepreneur Max Levchin, the CEO of Affirm and a co-founder of PayPal. These awards are presented each year at the Real World Cryptology Conference.

Bennett Awards worked with event organizers to create a unique, interactive custom award design that honored the practice of cryptography and the modern foundation of the Levchin Prize. The award design was a “puzzle” that challenged recipients to solve it. The award design was in the shape of a cylinder, with rotating circular disks that, properly positioned, spelled out “LEVCHIN PRIZE”. Once the disks were in the correct position, the award also revealed a secret inner chamber in the spindle of the cylinder.

The inspiration for this award was loosely based on the Jefferson Disk wheel cypher and a Cryptex, coined from the fictional writings of Dan Brown of Leonardo da Vinci. 
While serving as George Washington's secretary of state from 1790-1793, Thomas Jefferson devised an ingenious and secure method to encode and decode messages: the wheel cipher. Codes were an essential part of his correspondence because European postmasters routinely opened and read all diplomatic and any suspect letters passing through their command.
Jefferson's wheel cipher consisted of twenty-six cylindrical wooden pieces, each threaded onto an iron spindle. The letters of the alphabet were inscribed on the edge of each wheel in a random order. Turning these wheels, words could be scrambled and unscrambled.
The initial ideation/design phase (sketching/digital modeling) of this unique award took roughly 40 hours before starting any metal production work was started. The parts were modeled, tested and modeled again until the engineering was right. 3D printed prototypes were then created to confirm feasibility and function before entering into manufacturing. The award, and all its components, were CNC machined from solid billet 7000 series aluminum. The functional (interactive) aspect of the award required a CNC machine process, due to the tight tolerances of the individual component parts and their fit. Each finished award took roughly 6 hours (on several different machines) to fabricate. In the final step of the process, the finish parts were then hard anodized to protect the surface finish.

The were four recipients of the 2017 Levchin Prize:

  • Joan Daemen, for development of AES and SHA-3
  • Moxie Marlinspike and Trevor Perrin, for the development and wide deployment of the Signal protocol
  • Phillip Rogaway, for his groundbreaking practice-oriented research, authenticated encryption, and work on format preserving encryption
  • The International miTLS Team, for developing its verified implementation of the TLD protocol

These custom awards were presented to recipients at the 2017 Real World Cryptology Conference, held January 4-6, 2017 at Columbia University in New York City.