For the third year running, The Royal School Armagh has participated in the GCHQ’s annual ‘CyberFirst Girls Competition’. Last year, we were delighted to reach the regional finals where the girls competed against the top schools in Northern Ireland. We finished third on that occasion, despite leading the competition for over three and a half hours out of the four hour event.

Competition Background

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) are working hard to get more girls interested in a career in cyber security. The CyberFirst Girls Competition provides a fun but challenging environment to inspire the next generation of young women to consider a career in cyber security.

The competition is a team event, with each one made up of a maximum of 4 female students from Year 8 in England and Wales, Year 9 in Northern Ireland and S2 in Scotland.

It consists of three distinct phases:

  • the online qualifying round to identify the top teams in each home nation and English region

  • the semi-final where teams will battle it out in their areas to qualify for a place in the Grand Final

  • the Grand Final where the top ten teams drawn from the regions in England, and from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will gather to compete for the title of UK CyberFirst Girls Competition Winners.

Whatever the ability of the entrants, from beginner to expert, the CyberFirst Girls Competition is an opportunity to learn something new about cyber security.

The competition focuses on 4 key areas:

  • Cryptography

  • Cyber Security

  • Logic & Coding

  • Networking

Each area has a series of problem solving questions which the pupils, in groups, must try to solve.

2021 Competition

We are delighted to announce that for the second year running, The Royal School Armagh, will have a team representing the school at the regional final.

Usually, all Year 9 girls would be given time in school to compete in the qualifier round, but due to the current pandemic and the fact that we are currently in a phase of remote learning, the event was very much optional to the Year 9 girls this year.

Mr. Forrest, Teacher of Computing, hosted an information session with all Year 9 girls to promote the event and to explain what the competition entailed. He was joined by last year’s team of semi-finalists, who offered the girls encouragement and advice about the competition.

Following this information session, there was much interest and it was great to see such uptake from our pupils. We had 13 teams taking part with a total number of 47 pupils who registered to take part.

At the end of the qualifying round, the leader-board within our school was as follows:

Congratulations to Team 6, who have progressed to the Regional Final

Abigail Tuvalazana

Naomi Bennett

Amelie Kernaghan

Daniela Danuta

The girls worked extremely well throughout the competition and in the end, were comfortable at the top of the leader board. It was close between the teams in 2nd – 5th place which is illustrated below:

Team 6

As you can see below, the girls demonstrated strong knowledge across the four categories. It was particularly nice to see their knowledge of networking in action; a topic that was recently covered in a series of Year 9 ICT lessons.

The girls in team 6 are excited about participating in the next phase. Here are their thoughts on the competition.

I really enjoyed the CyberFirst Girls Competition, especially the cryptography section which was really challenging but made figuring it out so much more satisfying. My team members each had a section assigned to them to work through, but we would also have zooms and Google Meets so that we could help each other figure out how to solve some of the more difficult questions. The competition at first was quite stressful, but once I got used to it was really rewarding and it was nice to see my friends again. I learnt a lot about ciphers like Caesar and Vigenère, and learnt about hexadecimals, binary and hashing for the first time. I also developed my skills in decoding, encoding, and balancing my time. This was a really fun experience that I was glad to be a part of, especially with my friends, and it helped me through a part of lockdown.

Abigail Tuvalazana, 9A

I found the competition very exciting to do as we were video calling each other and talking to each other was very fun so we were completing tasks while having fun. It was challenging at times, but we felt great when we solved it. My favourite part is when we would all work on different topics that we were assigned so that we could have a wider knowledge on the competition. Our overall idea was to work through 50% of each section and then we could slowly work through the rest but some of it was harder than the other sections so that didn’t go as planned.

It did help with some of the stress as when I would get tired of schoolwork and spend some time on the challenges which helped a lot. I learned lots of new things from this competition, my section was logic and coding, and I didn’t know much in coding so I would do research and learned a variety of things.

Overall I really enjoyed taking part in this competition.

Daniella Danuta 9A

I really enjoyed participating in this competition. ICT never really was my best subject, but I improved a lot in this, developing skills in Logic, Coding, Networking, Cryptography, and more!

I learned new skills and it was really nice being able to work with my friends to complete the tasks too. All our skills were able to come together and we learned off each other and helped each other out.

We did some tasks together, helping and did some in our own time. I found it very challenging, but fun and enjoyable and would love to take part in more ICT related tasks in the future.

Amelie Kernaghan, 9A

This year during lockdown, this was a fun and enjoyable activity to do in my spare time! My friends and I did zoom calls and communicated together to do this activity. I enjoyed it! I think other girls in next years to come will have a good time learning more ICT and they progress through these activities!

Naomi Bennett, 9A