Hudson High School senior Sean Scarnecchia’s interest in computer science and technology started at a young age, and he began to learn to write programs in Python such an “Age Guesser” and a “Number Guessing Game” in the fifth grade.

A couple of years later, he took a year of classes to learn the programming language C++. Experiences such as participating in a summer High School Coding Camp which enhanced his C++ skills; taking AP Computer Science A; and learning Java, a programming language, all furthered this interest.

Currently, he is the President of Math Club, Vice President of Science Olympiad and the Captain of Academic Challenge at Hudson High School. Scarnecchia also participates in competitions such as the Association of Computational and Mathematical Modeling, a math modeling competition utilizing computer programming to analyze data.

Beginning the summer of 2017, Scarnecchia applied for an internship at Kent State University’s Computer Science department and joined the Advanced Information Security and Privacy Lab; in the fall of 2018, he started to work for the same lab as a paid research assistant.

n these two years, Scarnecchia was placed on a team of graduate students to create a simulation to educate about the importance of privacy on social media with Kent State University Computer Science Professor Kambiz Ghazinour.

They began implementing their game as a web-based simulation using JavaScript, HTML and CSS and the group’s research paper was submitted and accepted to the Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society in London, a subsidiary of the ACM Computer and Communications Security conference, and was published in the ACM Digital Library as well.

As a paid intern, Scarnecchia has developed game mechanics, conducted case studies with primarily high school students, and helped to form a working implementation of the initial idea.

The game, called Digital-PASS, simulates a player getting exposed to account security threats such as phishing and hack attempts. The user must balance posting content and popularity with safe privacy practices.

“This way, people who play the game will learn about safe privacy practices on social media in a controlled, safe environment, rather than having their first experience of having their identity stolen online in the real world,” Scarnecchia said.

In November 2019, Scarnecchia traveled to London for the first time to present his research at the Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society.

Specifically, he presented the results of case studies and the need for the software he and his team developed. The presentation was well-received by attendees, and helped him to prepare for further academic research by getting advice and listening to those currently in the computer security field.

“I gained immense knowledge and experience regarding the research process,” he said. “I joined the project when our game was just an idea, and carried it all the way through creating the initial implementation, conducting case studies, writing the research paper, and eventually getting accepted into a conference and published.

“For me personally, I furthered my interest in computer science, and am now confident my eventual career will be in the computer science field.”

Scarnecchia also adds that this experience has helped him realize his research goal, which is centered around developing tools that both aid others and advance society.

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