GCHQ will, as usual, be participating in the Cheltenham Science Festival which will be held in Cheltenham Town Hall from 12-17th June 2012. As in previous years, GCHQ will have a stand in the Discover Zone which this year is sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council
This year’s stand will contain a number of interactive games and puzzles, designed and created by members of the GCHQ apprenticeship scheme industrial year placement team, which aim to challenge and test the problem solving abilities of the public It will showcase how GCHQ values innovation, creativity and problem solving abilities amongst its staff.
This year has added poignancy for GCHQ as it marks the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing who worked with GCHQ’s predecessor, the Government Code & Cypher School at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
Amongst his many achievements, Alan Turing is credited with designing the ‘Bombe’, a machine which helped decipher German Enigma-machined-encrypted signals during the War. His life and work are being celebrated around the country this year in Turing 2012.
In keeping with this theme, a separate stand at the Science Festival will celebrate Turing’s life and work, whilst also demonstrating the enciphering/deciphering process using an Enigma machine and live radio link-up with Bletchley Park.
Enigma machine on the GCHQ stand at a previous Science Festival
(left) Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (1912-54) and (right) original Enigma drawing to illustrate the electrical current through a set of Enigma rotors by Alan Turing.
GCHQ’s stand for the Discover Zone
1. Live Cheltenham radio link-up with Bletchley Park
GCHQ will be inviting members of the public to encrypt a message of their choice on an Enigma machine in the Town Hall. The messages will be then be relayed by radio to Bletchley Park for decryption and then sent back via a ‘tweet’. This marks the coming together of both old and new technologies.
The radio links between the two sites will be provided by the Cheltenham Amateur Radio Association and the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society in Bletchley Park.
The whole event will be streamed live on the Internet and will involve two-way webcams so that members of the public in both Cheltenham and Bletchley Park can view the encryption/decryption process as it happens.
Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre during the Second World War and the other end of this year's live link-up
2. Electronic Safe Game
Created by Matt, another of GCHQ’s engineering apprentices, this ingenious game is all about beating the clock to open a safe. Five questions will be posed to contestants on an Alan Turing or GCHQ theme. The answers will be entered into one of five different keypads at the front of the safe. Answer all five correctly in the allotted time and the safe opens up to reveal a prize.
(left) Electronic Safe Game created by one of GCHQ’s engineering apprentices.
(right) Cyber Breach Game, created by one of GCHQ's industrial year students, and a Bio-Palm terminal.
3. Cyber breach game
This was a game designed and created by Rob, one of GCHQ’s Industrial Year Students. The mission is to protect the UK from cyber attack by solving a number of code-breaking and logic puzzles.
The game consists of five puzzles, lasting no more than three minutes each. It includes ‘Byteman 3000’ which challenges the player to read an attackers data whilst it’s being transmitted, and a location game where the player analyses three pieces of data to determine where an attacker is heading and to track his movements.
The aim of the game is to solve crypt problems in a visually stimulating way.
Laying down a challenge for our apprentices is key to helping them develop into creative members of the GCHQ workforce. As Rob says, “Creating and building this game from scratch was a real challenge for me and hopefully it will inspire and challenge others”.
4. The Cube Game
Carried on a Raspberry Pi this game consists of three layers of code that can be rotated by a player. Once all three layers are in the correct alignment a secret message will be displayed.
(right) The Cube Game
This is an innovative biometric system that enrols people on a voluntary basis for some of the games by using their palm vein pattern to establish their identity.