OctaPi goes to school

Last Updated: 11 Jul 2017
GCHQ has teamed up with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to inspire the next generation of programmers.


Cartoon Octopus at a desk
A graphic octopus sat at a desk. ©Raspberry Pi Foundation


Computer experts at GCHQ have been using Raspberry Pis at science events as part of our outreach engagement for years, encouraging schoolchildren and students to learn more about programming.

Schools and code clubs can now access newly released teaching materials through the Raspberry Pi Foundation's website. 

GCHQ developed the OctaPi, which is made up of eight networked Raspberry Pi 3 single board computers in blocks of eight making a distributed computer system.  

GCHQ has led the world in cryptography for nearly 100 years and we chose two stories from our history as inspiration for the teaching resources - a crypt attack on Enigma from World War II - and the invention of public key cryptography (which GCHQ developed in the early 1970s). 

The OctaPi partial brute force crypt attack on Enigma was shown at both the Edinburgh and Cheltenham Science Festivals. Using one OctaPi module of eight processors, the rotor settings were recovered in just 15 seconds much to the amazement of the audience.

A member of GCHQ's OctaPi team said: "Currently, little is taught about distributed computing but it is the type of computing many students may encounter at university or in employment (for example, at GCHQ). So we are delighted to have worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to develop teaching materials for these ideas and many more, which will enable anyone to build an OctaPi and learn about the applications."


A graphic of an octopus with Raspberry Pi in its tentacles
A graphic of an octopus with Raspberry Pis in its tentacles. ©Raspberry Pi Foundation