CodeBreaker to begin Friday, Nov. 8


Macy McClish

CodeBreaker is a competition where participants solve puzzles, find hidden codes and play games to win prizes.

Students and teachers will have the opportunity to win prizes through CodeBreaker, a competition where participants solve puzzles and codes, starting Friday, Nov. 8 through the NExUS website.

CISD Chief Technology Officer Michael Keough will email students and staff when the NExUS opens. Prizes include a Dell UltraSharp 34-inch curved ultrawide monitor, a Trayvax wallet, pairs of Beats headphones and gift cards to local restaurants, with more prizes to be announced. Randall High will also be participating in CodeBreaker, but with separate prize pools. Keough said the game will last about three weeks, and the goal is to help participants problem solve.

Every CodeBreaker question has a simple answer; you just have to know how to find that answer.

— Michael Keough, CISD Chief Technology Officer

“About 20 percent of CodeBreaker is technical stuff, like coding, and the rest is solving puzzles,” Keough said. “The idea of it being just a techie thing is proven wrong compared to the students who actually participate. A lot of times, seeing a problem and trying to figure it out can be hard, so some people give up. But every CodeBreaker question has a simple answer; you just have to know how to find that answer.”

This is CISD’s third year to offer CodeBreaker. Those interested can practice by playing last year’s CodeBreaker, which is available here.

“This year, I have designed things around information security,” Keough said. “It will be the same platform as last year, except for I changed the codes and some minor things. There are some techie things, but we also geared some things toward other students. We have some music challenges, games and a lot of academic questions. We want everyone to have a chance to win prizes.”

Keough said he got the idea for CodeBreaker while working at another school district.

“I went to my first escape room and thought, ‘hey, we can do this on campus in a way that benefits students and doesn’t obstruct the school,'” Keough said. “The first year we did it here, it was actually a scavenger hunt on campus. Then the second year we did it exclusively online. We are bringing back a couple of campus elements. Instead of having the game be linear, it became where as you solve puzzles, find secret codes and play games, you earn points.”

Keough said he hopes more students participate in CodeBreaker and see it as a way to develop problem-solving skills.

“We wanted to give students an outlet to be challenged, and that is what CodeBreaker is,” Keough said. “They can actually get jobs with these skills. Whether you’re going to be a coach, or you’re going to be a code breaker for the NSA, you are going to have to problem solve.”

For more information, participants can email Keough or leave questions on an FAQ form.

CodeBreaker really forced me to think harder and use my skills to earn points.

— Reyna Kendrick, 11

“I found out about CodeBreaker after I saw an email about it from Mr. Keough,” junior Reyna Kendrick said. “I thought it would be challenging and exciting, so I went to the Nexus and started playing.”

Kendrick placed third in last year’s CodeBreaker.

“I wanted to participate to use my programming skills, and ultimately, I was the only underclassman who won,” Kendrick said. “CodeBreaker really forced me to think harder and use my skills to earn points.”

Students could earn points by solving binary and Caesar ciphers, as well as answering English, science, math and art questions.

“Originally, I expected it to be more team-oriented, and when I realized it was more competitive than that, I started working harder,” Kendrick said. “Of course I worked with a few people, especially when it came to grinding games for points, but I also loved figuring out the riddles and codes by myself. Overall, CodeBreaker really did challenge me and helped me think of new ways to solve problems and troubleshoot.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include the new start date.