News Article

Inspiring young minds at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Last Updated: 20 Jun 2016
For the 12th year running we have taken part in The Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

Once again our enthusiastic team of volunteers, which included the new intake of industrial students, put in many hours of their own time to design some new games and gizmos to amaze and delight young and old alike. 


Cheltenham Science Festival 2016 - the GCHQ stand
©GCHQ 2016


The games covered maths, problem solving and computer security as well as demonstrating some new technologies.  ‘Robot Maze’ was particularly popular - visitors were able to drive a robot around a specially designed three-tier maze using a Virtual Reality headset, avoiding a number of obstacles along the way.   


He has on a headset that only lets him see the track through the car's camera, steering it via RC
©GCHQ 2016


A clear-sided 1.2m square box with three levels, a lift, obstacles and mirrors
©GCHQ 2016


A specially designed RC car with cameras on the front and special wheels that can move sideways
©GCHQ 2016


‘Cyber Squad’  was a new game designed by the students for four players who had to work together to defend a computer network from attack. Not only did the game provide some valuable computer security information, it enabled players to develop their team-working and communication skills too!  


Students with touchscreen devices giving options on what to do next to defend the network
©GCHQ 2016


Last but not least,  our new ‘Commander’ game, which challenged players to recall random sequences of lights,  proved a big hit with visitors who competed to get the highest score of the day. 


Large wall-mounted circular game with a countdown timer. Student pressing buttons to select colours
©GCHQ 2016


The Enigma/Cryptoy interactive experience on the adults-only Friday evening session also attracted lots of interest;  visitors were able to encrypt a message on a genuine Enigma machine and tweet it to two of our volunteers nearby, who decrypted the message using our Cryptoy code-breaking app, and tweeted it back. A great demonstration of old and new technology working side by side!

Supporting the Cheltenham Science Festival is an important part of GCHQ’s outreach programme.  While our aim is to inspire a passion in youngsters for science, we in turn are always greatly inspired and heartened by their enthusiasm and enquiring minds. We look forward to next year! 


Person pressing blue touch screen on black metal safe to answer questions and hopefully open it!
©GCHQ 2016