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Codebreakers currently first in National Competition

Two Rendcomb teams are currently in joint 1st place in the annual National Cipher Challenge.

Rendcomb College's Cryptology Club, the new enrichment activity for pupils interested in cryptanalysis, has entered several teams into the National Cipher Challenge which is organised by the University of Southampton's School of Mathematics. More than 1000 teams are taking part nationwide. 

The online codebreaking competition involves deciphering a series of encrypted messages to unravel a storyline. This year's adventures surround a mystery involving a scientist doing research on gravitational waves.

Pupil at a computer during the National Cipher ChallengeThe competition commenced in October and runs until the New Year and each challenge is divided into an “A” and a “B” challenge with the “B” challenges at a higher difficulty level and with all challenges getting more difficult as the competition progresses. 

The competition is currently up to challenge 7 out of 8 and the Rendcomb teams have certainly been up to the task.

Year 8 pupils Dylan, Harrison and Eddie, are in joint 1st place in the “A” challenges and 141st place in the “B” challenges; Year 8 pupils Johnny and Nick, are also in joint 1st place in the “A” challenges; and Year 11 pupils Frank, Fei, Emily and Kathy are in joint 51st place in the “A” challenges.   

Johnny stated that he and Nick “found the ciphers very challenging and fun to break,” and Nick added that “we got to understand them more as the competition progressed.”   

Rendcomb College CodebreakersIn addition to the fun of solving a puzzle and uncovering a mystery, cryptology relates to many areas of interesting and advanced mathematics, computer science and some of the nuances of language. Eddie commented that he “really enjoyed learning more about the English and Maths involved in codebreaking.”

Emily also added: “It has taught me a lot of the difficulties faced by codebreakers and I have really enjoyed learning about some of the different ciphers.”

Once the competition is complete, the Cryptology Club will continue to cover advanced Maths and the algorithms behind some of the more difficult ciphers.