High School Team Places Third in Barclays Blockchain Challenge Event

A U.K. school won third place in a blockchain interoperability hackathon hosted by Clearmatics at the Barclays Rise fintech hub in London.

Feb 9, 2019 at 12:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:52 a.m. UTC

If understanding how distributed ledger tech works inside banks is complex, finding ways to make different varieties of enterprise blockchains talk to each other is a doozy of a challenge.

And yet, that’s exactly what a team of high school students – soon to sit their A-Level exams in computer science – has done. The team, from Bedford School in the U.K., won third place in a blockchain interoperability hackathon hosted by London-based blockchain startup Clearmatics at the Barclays Rise fintech hub in London.

The challenge set by Clearmatics, which is behind projects such as the Utility Settlement Coin banking consortium, was to use the company’s Ion interoperability protocol to get two blockchains (such as Hyperledger Fabric and ethereum) to exchange data, verify transactions etc.

The team of computer science students were up against teams of blockchain experts from banks like Santander and Barclays as well as seasoned startups such as Web3j and Adhara. In a way, the win underscored the diverse level of interest in the technology as well as the generational evolution taking place with new entrants in the ecosystem, so to speak. 

Dr. David Wild, head of computer science at Bedford School, said the team knew nothing about enterprise blockchain technology just two days before the event.

Drawing on his past experience working with educational software, the teacher suggested a smart contract design to share exam results between schools, exam boards and university admissions bodies, which would do so in a less fragmented and interoperable manner. The students agreed on the pitch and between them created a working solution using the Ion framework.

Wild said coming to the blockchain interoperability challenge with a naive point of view turned out to be refreshing and useful, adding,

“If you are writing a piece of software say, you want somebody who is naive to use it because they tend to use it in the ways that you wouldn't imagine.”

Accepting the prize, one of the students said the team managed some of the steep learning curve coming to and from the two-day event.

“We learned quite a lot about Solidity and smart contracts on the train," they told CoinDesk. 

Image courtesy of Bedford School

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