Physics Students Triumph in Safe Cracking Competition

Safe And Head Resized For Web

Three teams of sixth-form students are to head to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel in March to take part in an International Safecracking Tournament. The winning teams, who are studying physics at A-Level, fought off tough competition from a total of 13 teams at Weizmann UK’s fifth annual safe cracking tournament which took place at Dulwich College on Sunday 12 February. Prizes were announced by, Professor Marcus du Sautoy OBE,  Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

Around 65 Year 12 students from 10 schools across the UK competed to break into securely locked devices by pitting their physics knowledge against each other.

Participating teams were tasked with designing a safe which could be cracked only by solving two physics riddles. Each team had to be able to open their own safe in under 5 minutes but needed to keep their opponents stumped for at least 10 minutes.

The teams were competing to win a travel grant to enable them to take their safes to the next level:  the International Safe Cracking Tournament at the Weizmann Institute of Science which will take place in Israel on 28-29 March.

The three teams of lucky students that will travel to Israel are:

1st place: St Paul’s School – Under Pressure Safe

2nd place: Eltham College – Cracking Fiends Safe

3rd place: King David High School – Number Cruncher Safe

The competition was judged by a panel of experts including Israeli Physicists, Gal Winer and Daniel Banitt, from the Weizmann Institute of Science and retired UK physicist Dr Cyril Isenberg.

Before awarding the prizes, Professor Marcus du Sautoy gave a lively presentation on the science behind encryption entitled “the Uncrackable Code.”

The Weizmann UK Safe Cracking Tournament is CREST accredited and students who take part can use their work to gain a Silver CREST Award which is recognised by both UCAS and the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme.  The CREST scheme is run by the British Science Association and accredits science, technology, engineering and maths activities for young people.

Sheridan Gould, Executive Director of Weizmann UK said: 

“This competition is a quirky way to really put to the test those who have just started their physics studies at A-Level. There is a huge range of learning that they need to succeed in this competition. We are absolutely thrilled to be able to fund the winning teams to travel to Israel.  We were also particularly delighted that Professor Marcus du Sautoy was able to join us on the day. There is no doubt that he is an inspiration to those looking to take their studies of maths and science further.”

Dr Allan Gardam, Director of Engineering at St Paul’s School, which took first place in the competition for the second year running, said:  

“We are delighted to repeat last year’s fantastic performance to be awarded first place in the competition. The hard work that boys have put in really shows and we very much look forward to them representing St Paul’s at the International final at the wonderful Weizmann Institute. ”

Mr Peter Curati, a physics teacher at the King David High School in Manchester said:

“We are really pleased with the result. It has been amazing to watch the team progress from a dozen different ideas and in a stunningly short space of time turn them into something that has done so well.”

List of participating schools:

Birkdale School, Dulwich College (two teams), Eltham College, Hampton School (two teams), Ibstock Place School (Roehampton), King David High School (Manchester), Seven Kings High School, St Paul’s School (two teams), St Paul’s Girls School, Yavneh College.

See our gallery of Images

Watch the Weizmann Institute's Physics Video: Touching Something No-One Found - starring Israeli Electro-Pop band, The Young Professionals.

Published: February 14, 2017

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