A Level Computer Science students from Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College (QE), Darlington, have taken a trip back in time by visiting the internationally renowned National Museum of Computing (NMOC) and Bletchley Park. The NMOC introduces individuals to the history of computers, from their initial development to the meteoric rise of mobile computing and the Internet. The students were able to examine replicas of iconic machines which featured heavily during World War II, including the Enigma and Lorenz cipher systems used by Germany. Also on display was the bombe, the device employed by cryptologists to help decipher enigma-encrypted secret messages, and Colossus, the world’s first programmable computer which enabled the British to crack the Lorenz codes. Second year student, Tom Johnson, who studies A Level Computer Science, Maths and Physics, was very impressed with the museum’s content. The 18-year-old from Stockton-on-Tees says: ‘There were some really interesting and insightful activities. It was great to see what computers looked like in the past.’ Saksham Lingthep, who is also in his second year and enrolled on A Level Computer Science, Chemistry and Maths, enjoyed getting to grips with old arcade games and touring the facilities. The 18-year-old from Catterick Garrison comments: ‘It was cool to play some older games which I have never encountered before. During the tour, I could identify key words that we have been studying as part of our A Level course.’

The second day of the trip saw students discover the remarkable achievements of Britain’s World War II Codebreakers as they visited Bletchley Park. The group were able to obtain a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life of the famous Codebreakers, taking a look inside the preserved huts where they carried out their heroic work. Students then participated in an interactive workshop, putting their own programming skills to the test which was a highlight for second year student, Megan Woods. The 18-year-old, who studies A Level Computer Science, English Language and Maths at QE, explains: ‘It was fun being able to work together and take part in similar tasks to the Codebreakers.’ For 17-year-old Reece Downs, from Norton, the historical buildings were a must see. He adds: ‘The huts were absolutely brilliant. I loved reading all of the information about how the enigma was broken.’

Second year student, Ian Mungwadzi, who is a student of A Level Computer Science, Chemistry and Physics describes the visit to Bletchley Park as ‘amazing.’ The 18-year-old from Stockton-on-Tees says: ‘It was absolutely fantastic. Seeing how the huts have been preserved, along with the added interactive activities, was excellent. The guided tours really helped to provide a clear picture of what went on at Bletchley Park during the War. If I had been left alone for any longer in the gift shop, I would have spent all of my money!’

Darryn Gordon, Course Leader for A Level Computer Science at QE, concludes: ‘Bletchley Park has long been a place I’ve wanted to take my students and I’m not sure who was more excited, me or them! Both museums have proven incredibly beneficial for our students’ work. The practical experiences at the NMOC have allowed us to create links with cryptography theory and seeing the systems used by the Codebreakers put into context the concepts we have learnt during the A Level course.’

For more information on QE’s A Level Computer Science course, please contact Laurence Job ([email protected]), Deputy Principal.