Cracking Codes with the National Cipher Challenge

This year, two teams from Clifton High School's Y7 and Y8 entered the University of Southampton’s National Cipher Challenge. They worked together to crack encrypted messages that were published online every week and which formed a story that unfolded over the course of the challenge. Over 1000 teams entered from schools across the country and 'The Purple Polybius Penguins' (Isobel, Heidi & Ella from Y8 and Harry & Oliver from Y7) came 624th, while 'The Affine Team' (Emma, Heather, Sophia and Bella from Y8) came 275th in the overall competition and won a £25 prize. Well done!

It sounds like the teams had fun:

"This year’s story was about a girl who got taken out of a concentration camp because she was a good artist. Some people wanted her to copy the Mona Lisa and swap it for the real one. Years later some men found out about it and wrote letters to each other about what happened (these were the letters we were deciphering)."

"It was challenging finding out what type of cipher it was so we could solve it. The frustration made it fun because sometimes we spent ages working out the cipher. We used some useful websites like richkni, which has lots of resources to encrypt and decrypt.  It was fun finding out the answers to the challenges. We knew they were something to do with the Mona Lisa, and we would find out another part to the story each week."

"We would recommend the cipher club to next year’s Year 7s. It’s really fun because it’s something really different to the rest of the subjects we do. We learn a lot but at the same time we have fun and enjoy ourselves with friends. And we eat chocolate!"