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UK’s top young codebreakers revealed

Published: 23 January 2019
Code image

Winners of a national competition aimed at getting school and sixth-form students enthused and passionate about maths and codebreaking have been announced.

Run by Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton, the annual National Cipher Challenge attracts around 7,000 entrants from over 700 schools and colleges across the UK each year. Over 3,000 teams took part in the latest challenge, of which 177 made it through to the finals.

The competition, sponsored by GCHQ and leading education and industry partners, tests the abilities of children to tackle codes and ciphers – designed to show whether they have what it takes to become one of the next generation of elite cyber-defenders. Entrants have gone on to compete in a similar adult competition, Cyber Security Challenge UK.

Graham Niblo, competition organiser and professor of Mathematics at Southampton, comments: “Codebreaking was very much in the spotlight last year, with a BBC audience choosing the mathematician and World War Two code breaker Alan Turing as the greatest scientist of the 20th century for the history programme Icons. Our Cipher Challenge helps underpin this kind of high-profile boost for mathematics by getting young people excited and engaged with codebreaking. Who knows, the next Turing, or computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, could be among our winners!”

The 2018 challenge, titled The Kompromat Files, followed the fictional fortunes of two heroes, Jodie and Harry, as they tried to unravel the mystery of a 145-year-old encrypted diary which had the potential to destabilise fragile peace with Russia. Competition entrants were able to immerse themselves in the adventure and help the pair crack codes along the way.

The talented winners of the National Cipher Challenge 2018 are:
 
The Alan Turing Prize (sponsored by GCHQ)
 
Zadok Storkey from Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. Zadok aims to be starting a university degree in computer science following his A level studies.
Team name: RailFence

The Ada Lovelace Prize (sponsored by the British Computer Society)
 
Elizaveta Sheremetyeva from Oxford High School. Elizaveta is currently in Year 12, studying maths, further maths, biology, chemistry and physics.
Team name: Chocologic

Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace runner-up prizes
(sponsored by University of Southampton and Trinity College)
 
Jared Carter from Peter Symonds College in Winchester
Team name: Decrypting Ninja
(Alan Turing runner-up)

Jessica Richards from South Wilts Grammar School for Girls
Team name: Onwards
(Ada Lovelace runner-up)
 
The University of Southampton Prize (for the fastest team)

Team ‘E.Z.P.Z.L.M.N.S.Q.I.Z’: William Towler and Oliver O'Toole from The Angmering School in West Sussex

IBM Prize (Runner up)

Team ‘Leaned’ from Westminster School: Anshu Banerjee, Daniel Kaddaj, Andrew Smith and Luke Remus Elliot                             


The winners will attend a prize-giving ceremony at Bletchley Park, the ancestral home of British code-makers and breakers, in the Spring.

Nineteen leading academics from the University of Southampton have recently joined The Alan Turing Institute as Fellows. The Fellows are all established scholars with proven research excellence in data science, artificial intelligence or a related field drawn from the University including mathematics, computer science, medicine, ocean and earth sciences, physics, electronics and other disciplines. The University of Southampton joined The Alan Turing Institute in April 2018.

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