CWU News

CWU Co-sponsored 2020 Kryptos Competition Still On, Online

Kryptos competition logoThe 10th annual Kryptos competition will go on as planned next week, as it always has. That’s because the event, co-sponsored by Central Washington University and Western Oregon University (WOU), has always been online.

“For those now organizing math or computer science classes online and looking for projects for their students, this could be an assignment for classes anywhere around the country,” said CWU mathematics professor Stuart Boersma, one of the developers of the competition.

Cheryl Beaver, co-developer of Kryptos and WOU mathematics professor, added, “Having students using technology and working online individually or in [up to three-member] groups could be a great way to build community in classes that can’t meet in person right now.”

Registration for Kryptos 2020 is continuing. The competition begins on April 16. Designed for college undergraduates, it involves breaking ciphers, the processes for encrypting messages, which take easy-to-read plain text and transforms them into unintelligible gibberish.  

“It’s up to the participants to take clues from the various documents we give them and then try to decrypt whatever coded message is there,” explained Boersma, who leads an upper-division CWU course in cryptology. “The contest doesn’t require any specific mathematics. It’s open to students from any [academic] discipline who like to solve puzzles. But knowing a little math or being comfortable with some computer programming could help them tackle things a little bit easier or more quickly.”

Beaver continued, “There are challenges of varying degrees of difficulty. This allows the novice solver a chance at success while challenging the more experienced participants as well.” Typically, between 150 and 250 students, from around the world, participate in Kryptos, including from a high school in France, which has entered the competition for several years.

The first- and second-place individual and team winners will receive prizes through the Pacific Northwest Section of the Mathematical Association of America.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,