The Alan Turing Cryptography Competition

The eighth Alan Turing Cryptography Competition for school children has been announced by the University of Manchester. The competition will start in January 2019. The challenges of the past issues are available online.

Cryptology is a great means to get young people interested in both mathematics and history. Crypto competitions for school children therefore deserve support. In January 2019, the eighth issue of one of the largest competitions of this kind is going to start: the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition. It is named for Alan Turing, who is certainly familiar to most readers of this blog.

The Competition

Organized by the School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester, the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition ran for the first time in January 2012, as part of the Alan Turing Year centenary celebrations. According to the organizers, the competition was so successful that it was decided to turn it into a yearly event.

The competition is open to school children in the UK only. I hope, this can be changed one day. I’m sure, there is a lot of interest in other countries, as well.

The Alan Turing Cryptography Competition is built around a story about two children named Mike and Ellie, who must solve a number of cryptographic challenges as they go along. According to the organizers, the challenges do not need any sophisticated mathematics to solve, nor do they require the use of computers. Instead, logical thought and problem-solving abilities are required.

The competition runs from Monday 28th January to Monday 8th April. A new chapter of the story is released on Mondays at 4pm. There are six chapters in total. Each chapter contains a code to solve and they get progressively harder. The participants can earn points for the leaderboard by submitting the correct solution. The solutions will be released on Monday 8th April, 2019.

A challenge from last year

If you are not a school child or if you don’t live in the UK, you still can look at the challenges from the past seven issues of the competition. They are nicely made and not especially difficult. As a starter, try to break the following cryptogram, which was the first challenge of the 2018 competition (for copyright reasons, this is not the original picture, but a similar one with the same content):

Can you solve this challenge?