Silver Medals in National Cipher Challenge

Posted: 1st March 2024

Ashana Melissa Lucia Silver Medals National Cipher Challenge

Year 12s Ashana, Melissa and Lucia have won silver medals in the National Cipher Challenge organised by The School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton. We asked them to report back.

“During the ten week long National Cipher Challenge, we worked as a cohesive team to decode two different ciphers every week as accurately and quickly as we could. At the start the ciphers were simple and became increasingly difficult as we received fewer clues to help us decipher them. This was our first time entering the competition so it was challenging as we had little prior knowledge of codebreaking, but as the competition progressed we became more and more proficient.

The final cipher was by far the most challenging because we didn’t receive any hints this time. However, the message’s title ‘1902’, alluded to the possible ciphers that could have been used during encryption. Initially we believed that the cipher was encrypted using a ‘Bifid’ cipher and spent many hours trying to crack the code using this method. After a couple of days, and after receiving a few hints from the forum, we realised that the message was encrypted using a ‘Four Square’ Cipher. We were so proud of ourselves when we managed to crack the code.

The National Cipher Challenge was such a worthwhile experience. We learnt the importance of trying things out even when you don’t know where to start, because you could discover something new which will help guide you towards the solution. We learnt not only about code breaking, but also about problem solving, perseverance and working together as a team.

Burgess Hill Girls Win Silver Medals In National Cipher Challenge Ashana Lucia Bletchley Park

We were thrilled to discover that we had been awarded silver medals for our achievements and were invited to Bletchley Park to receive them. Our day at Bletchley Park was hugely inspiring. We spent the morning looking at fascinating artefacts, including the Enigma machine and the cryptanalytical ‘bombe’ machine, as well as learning about the codebreakers who worked tirelessly at Bletchley to save countless lives during World War Two. In the afternoon we enjoyed a series of maths-focused lectures. The first speaker was the mathematician and author, Marcus du Sautoy, who we had been privileged to meet just before his talk. His lecture explored how maths and games are integral to human psychology and culture. The second speaker was a representative from GCHQ who shared his excitement about codebreaking and the significant role codebreaking continues to play in keeping our country safe. These talks were interspersed with hilarious, maths-inspired slam poems performed by Harry Baker. All in all, the day was a truly brilliant and memorable end to our experience of the National Cipher Challenge.”

Burgess Hill Girls Win Silver Medals In National Cipher Challenge Melissa

Burgess Hill Girls Win Silver Medals In National Cipher Challenge Ashana Lucia With Marcus Du Sautoy