10 May 2018
A pupil from Sir Roger Manwood's School in Sandwich, Kent has been announced top female code breaker in the 2018 National Cipher Challenge. Claire Carlotti has been awarded the BCS Ada Lovelace prize after taking part in the annual code breaking competition organised by the University of Southampton School of Mathematics in partnership with BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
Winner Claire said: “I was a bit shocked to discover that I had won the Ada Lovelace prize, as it had taken me a day and a half to submit my solution to the final cipher, but it was well worth the sleepless night spent deciphering it by hand. This was my second year doing the Cipher Challenge - and I really enjoyed it.”
Teams from hundreds of schools around the UK and beyond entered the web-based code-cracking competition. The challenge was to decrypt ciphers to uncover a mystery storyline. This year, competitors had to unravel the mystery of Rome’s Lost Legion which vanished in Northern Britain in 108AD. The reason for their disappearance and the nature of the treasure they guarded has been lost for centuries. The job of the competition entrants was to uncover the truth. Lessons and notes as well as on-line videos on code-breaking were made available to competitors so they could learn all they needed to solve the mystery.
Claire continued: “It was interesting seeing how a simple idea could be used in so many ways, while still being difficult to crack. It was very satisfying finishing the longer ciphers and realising I’d turned what looked like a load of nonsense into understandable text; although when this was done using over eight hundred lines of code, it was somewhat annoying to discover I could have done it in under fifty!”
Julia Adamson, Director of Education at BCS said: “Congratulations to Claire - she should be very proud of her achievement. The aim of this competition is to help get schoolchildren interested in computing. It’s a fantastic opportunity to inspire students to consider careers in the tech profession. At a time when there are concerns over young people spending too much time online, it’s great to see competitions like this which encourage them to use creative thinking and technology to solve problems.”
Mr Lee Hunter, Headteacher of Sir Roger Manwood's School, said: “We are extremely pleased for Claire. Initiatives like this are absolutely vital to educating young people about computer science and not only the risks, but also the positive benefits, associated with the growing cyber world. The National Cipher Challenge helps young people gain knowledge and understanding about how they can use technology in positive ways. This kind of work could well inspire the digital investigators of the future.”