National prize for QE code-breaker awarded at Bletchley Park

A QE Sixth-Former has won first prize in a challenging cryptography competition.

Bhavik Mehta, of Year 12, was placed first in Part B of the National Cipher Challenge 2013, an annual competition run by the University of Southampton.

He was awarded a prize of £1,000 from the Government’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, at a special ceremony at Bletchley Park – famous as the base of the team who broke the German Enigma code during World War II.

The competition was open to children in full-time education and attracted 1,500 entries. It comprised eight rounds – each with two challenges of increasing complexity. The challenges in the A section were not time-critical and consisted of encrypted letters. Part B, in which Bhavik was placed first, was based on extracts from fictional diaries, and contestants were awarded points based on the speed of the submission of the solution as well as accuracy.

“I am delighted for Bhavik on his achievement” said Fiona Wynn, a Mathematics teacher who runs a lunchtime cryptography club at the School. “Bhavik has been entering this competition since Year 8 and has even written his own code-breaking computer program, which helped him to his success. Although he can’t attend the School club due to Prefect duties, he has been very generous in sharing resources with us.

“Other members of the club also took part in the competition and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The competition was based on a story of a girl kidnapped by the Nazis and forced to forge a copy of the Mona Lisa. The boys became almost as enthusiastic about the underlying story as they did about the code-breaking,” added Miss Wynn.

The lunchtime club, which started with 12 boys, has now grown to 20. Members are currently going through the history of cryptography. The boys are learning how to solve different types of codes, many of which involve complex mathematics.