Pupils crack codes as World War II Enigma machine comes to St Mary’s
The Year 7 girls at St Mary’s School, Cambridge, were very excited to see a real World War II Enigma cipher machine, owned by Simon Singh, arrive at school. The machine, which is now 83 years old, was brought to the school by Dr James Grime, who runs the Enigma Project and travels the UK and the world to show people the magic of mathematics using this original code-breaking machine. There are only around 20 worldwide on display, with a few more in private collections, so it was a treat for the girls to be able to see a machine in the flesh – especially as this is the only Enigma machine that travels to schools.
Dr Grime gave a presentation on the history of codes and code-breaking and demonstrated using the Enigma machine. The girls were thrilled to learn about the important role women had at Bletchley Park – by 1945, 75% of the staff of Bletchley Park were women – and were then keen to get cracking on deciphering codes themselves in code-breaking workshops.
Dr Grime hopes that the Enigma Project will help to inspire and motivate both children and adults to learn more about mathematics. He commented: “The aim of talking about the Maths and History of the Enigma machines is to inspire and motivate the students to perhaps study maths or computing in the future – to be future codebreakers!”
Dominic Divito, Head of Mathematics at St Mary’s Senior School, Cambridge, said: “Seeing an Enigma machine in action was a great opportunity for our girls to see how Mathematics can be used in a hands-on, real-life context. The girls rose to the challenge in code-breaking workshops - Dr Grime was impressed by the girls’ determination to crack all the codes. I hope that this visit, along with the other inspiring activities our girls take part in – from our participation in team maths challenges to networking events and our follow up visit to Bletchley Park – encourages them to consider a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)”.