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An Enigma Wrapped In An EPQ

Year 12 student Rowan tells us more about the EPQ project...

As part of the Year 12 syllabus we are encouraged to do an Extended Project Qualification. For this we do an in-depth study of a topic of interest, leading to either a written essay on the topic or the production of an artefact with a write up.

We are encouraged to link to our A-level subjects as well as personal interest. My subjects are Maths, Physics, Geography and Further Maths, with a personal interest for future careers in cryptography and engineering.  Inspired by memories of trips to Bletchley Park, I decided to base my EPQ on the Enigma Machine. These trips highlighted a key flaw in the machine – that it cannot encode a letter as itself. I wanted to see if I could make a prototype of an improved version, without this flaw.

I decided to do an artefact with the title of “Can you improve the enigma machine in terms of coding using materials (or substitute alternatives) available during World War 2”.

I made the prototype by creating a replica of the original enigma with a few adjustments. This turned out to be a complicated and time-consuming project, with over 30 hours spent on practical alone. However, it was worth it – the end result was a working prototype that proves you can make the enigma encode a letter as itself.

The finished prototype (shown below) 2.17 x 1014 times harder to break.

I found this a really stimulating and challenging project. It widened my awareness and understanding of coding and engineering, which in turn further increased my interest in the subject.  This will really help me for the future as it is something that will make me stand out from other applicants as well as giving me more knowledge and skills in researching and manufacturing.  Doing an EPQ is not easy but if you choose a topic that really inspires you it can be such an interesting and worthwhile project.

Rowan Garwood, Year 12