Eltham College finished third in the hotly contested Weizmann UK’s Annual Safe Cracking Competition which took place on Sunday 23 May.    Around 70 students from eight UK schools took on the challenge, competing in teams to break into securely locked devices by pitting their physics knowledge against each other. Eltham fielded two teams of Lower Sixth students who competed in the competition and our ‘Safe Shank Redemption’ team finished in third place.

Each team was 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.

For the first time, an all-female team from South Hampstead School took the winning trophy, with Eltham College in third place behind Brentwood School who came in second.  The competition was judged by a panel of experts including Science Communicator, Thomas Briggs and Weizmann Physicist, Lee Peleg who is currently carrying out research at the University of Oxford.  Also on the panel were Adam Steinberg and Adi Jacobson –  both veterans of Weizmann UK’s prestigious educational programmes including the Safe Cracking competition and the Dr. Bessie Lawrence International Summer Science Institute held each year on the campus of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

Samuel Caschetto, Team Leader of Safe Shank Redemption who finished in third place said:

“Safecracking is a once in a lifetime experience to really apply physics to your creativity to make these academic puzzles and riddles. I would recommend it to all those who wish to take physics or engineering further as these skills were both required in making the safes.

“In addition to all the fun we had building it, coming third nationally came as a bonus which really made us proud of what we had created. In hindsight, there are things I may have changed for example, timing our build more efficiently so that there is less stress nearer the time of the competition, but I think overall my team did a very good job with the physics and design. I would say the hardest aspect of safecracking was finding a way to implement the physics we know to make a puzzle that competitors would be able to crack in the way that you want them to, i.e., without finding any way to cheat. The part I found most enjoyable would be the teamwork involved and the sense of achievement at the end of it.

Overall, it was a great experience that I would recommend to keen physicists when they join Year12.”

Anouk Raguin, Team Leader of Eltham’s SpongeBob SafePants team commented:

“Our entry for the Weizmann Safe Cracking competition was nine months in the making. Our safe was called SpongeBob SafePants. In preparation for the competition, we had to construct a safe with two (or more) puzzles inside, which are based on physics principles.

“In our safe, the first puzzle used a hand vacuum pump, which had to be used to suck the air out of a round-bottom flask, open the valve to the water and due to the difference in air pressure, the water was sucked into the flask. This water was dark blue, and triggered the light sensor. For the second puzzle, a spirit burner was lit, which boiled the water in the conical flask that was directly above it. This created steam, which pushed the gas syringe out to press a button. Once the sensor was triggered and button was pressed the microbit showed a code which you could use on the lockbox to get the Krabby Patty formula.

“By entering the competition we learnt a lot from how to use a drill to the use of a t-valve. It has been great to apply the physics we have learnt in the classroom to real life. After months of lockdown, it was great to have a proper in-person team project and I would highly recommend the experience to any future Year 12 students. We also would like to thank Mr Whittaker for all of his help and also the DT department for letting us use their tools and chemistry technicians for lending us parts.”