Submitted by The Bedford Historical Society
The nine Bedford High School students who participated in the National competition of National History Day in Washington, DC this past summer were honored recently by the Bedford Historical Society.
Five of the students – Maya Biswas, Nick Chapman, Lindsey Currier, Ronia Hurwitz and Lexi Ugelow, were named National Champions at the national event, which is designed to promote the teaching and learning of history. These students competed in the “Group Website” category, and designed a website about the Enigma Code – the name given to the German’s enigma-encrypted communications used before and during World War II.
The Enigma machine allowed an operator to type in a message, and then scramble it by means of several notched “rotors” that displayed different letters of the alphabet. The receiver needed to know the exact settings of these rotors to reconstruct the coded text. Germany believed their Enigma-encrypted messages were impenetrable to the Allies, but they were wrong: an Enigma machine was reconstructed by the Poles, who shared the secret with the British. Breaking the code gave the Allies important advantages, including their battles against Marshal Rommel’s German army in North Africa.
The BHS students said they “stumbled upon” two notes about the Enigma Code in Sophomore History class, and wanted to know more. They designed a self-directed website with an enigma-like simulator and lots of history about the successful efforts by the British and French to break the code.
The other four BHS students honored by the Historical Society did well enough at the State competition for National History Day that they were able to participate in the National competition as well. Remy Nikka, Jackie Nguyen, Michaela Simoneau and Kira Perzel-Mandell competed in the “Group Performance” category. Each student took various roles of historical characters involved in the Manhattan Project – the development and use of the first atomic bombs in World War II. Students dressed up like President Roosevelt, President Truman, theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer and Russia’s Joseph Stalin and performed a 10-minute skit. Ms. Nikka explained that “lots of History Day competitors have done this subject before, but not as a live performance.”
The Bedford Historical Society thanked the students for their interest in history and presented each with a check and the book, “Wilderness Town” about Bedford’s early history.
For 11 years, Bedford High School students have competed in the annual National History Day program, presenting their research and analysis in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. Social Studies teacher James Sunderland acts as the students’ advisor; part-time teacher and past Bedford Historical Society President Marion Bryan introduced the students at the Society event.