Taking cryptography into Swiss secondary schools!

Alkindi competition gets underway © EPFL 2022

Alkindi competition gets underway © EPFL 2022

After two years of being online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Alkindi-Switzerland cryptography contest grand final was back on campus today for the teams that qualified, as secondary students battled it out for first place!

Organized by EPFL’s School of Computer and Communication Sciences ‐ EPFL (IC) in collaboration with the Science Outreach Department (SPS), and the Animath and France-ioi associations, in 2021/22 more than 2’196 secondary students from across French-speaking Switzerland took part in the three preliminary challenges of the cryptography challenge, Alkindi.

In all the rounds, 9th, 10th and 11th graders worked alone or in pairs under the supervision of a teacher to solve a series of interactive problems in order to discover various aspects of crypto-analysis. The final competition challenge was held today at EPFL during which each student team had to work together to decrypt alphabetic and numeric messages within two hours.

The winning team was 888 of the College de la Glâne in Romont. Team member Morgane Scyboz shared the sentiments of the three members, “We are very happy because we did better than last year!”

For supervising teachers the experience was rewarding for both them and their students. Bastien Robetez accompanied team SAT from the Apples/Biere Secondary School. “I had three students taking part and they really loved the idea of being able to solve cryptography problems as a project at lunchtimes over a week. Participating here at EPFL is like the cherry on the cake and in addition to the competition itself they were thrilled with the extra elements of the day.”

After the competition ended the participating students were able to take part in a tour of the EPFL campus, an app providing directions and information on the landmarks and buildings they visited, including the Rolex Learning Center, the Lombard Odier Agora and the “Femmes de Science” exhibition. They also attended a conference given by Professor Rachid Guerraoui on the Secrets of Codes!

Dean of the School of Computer and Communication Sciences, Rüdiger Urbanke, said it waswonderful to feel the buzz of excitement as the competition participants arrived on campus, “Computer science, including cryptography, runs our modern, daily lives and it’s so important to be inspiring a new generation of students to take an interest in cracking the codes of future technologies. Congratulations to the winning team and all of those who participated!”

The Alkindi competition, which originated in France, is named after the ninth-century philosopher Al-Kindi, who is today considered to be one of the founders of cryptography – the study of codes.

Alkindi finalists 2022
First place: Team 888 (Jakub, Brian, Nathan, Morgane), Romont (4 bonnes réponses, 0 pénalité, 01h28m39s)
Second place: Team BinCyP (Iuliia, Nova, Elodie), Yverdon-les-Bains (4, 0, 2h14m46s)
Third place : Team SAT (Thaïna, Albane, Samuel), Apples (3, 0, 0h32m28s)

Author: Tanya Petersen

Source: Computer and Communication Sciences | IC

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