Not many students know much about GCHQ or what it does. Which is a problem when it comes to recruiting for graduate opportunities. And, if overcoming that isn’t a big enough challenge, security reasons prevent GCHQ from representing the organisation publicly within an open forum, such as a university campus.

So we had to find a creative method of raising awareness of GCHQ, the exciting opportunities available and the skills students needed to take advantage of them – all in a way that would interest and engage young people.

Part interactive quiz, part work of art, this is an installation in the form of a large box full of coloured LED lights programmed to display different patterns, letters and symbols.

To attract people initially, The Aurora produces a light show with the letters G, C, H and Q appearing in rotation. Then different numbers and letters present a pattern for students to complete using the iPads provided and choosing one of three options. If they select the wrong answer, The Aurora flashes a red X; make the right choice and a green tick appears.

The Aurora was sent to a select group of universities with a particular focus on STEM subjects, ensuring we targeted and educated the right audience. On the first tour, we also used on-campus ambassadors tasked both with probing students’ existing knowledge of GCHQ and then with telling them about the organisation and the wide variety of graduate opportunities available.

Our ambassadors discovered that, on average, only 41% of students had heard of GCHQ. They also learnt that very few had a real grasp of what GCHQ does; proving that this brand-awareness campaign was vital in helping to promote the brand.

On-site feedback showed The Aurora to be the ideal way for students to start a positive relationship with GCHQ. Because it was completely different, students at every university we visited were drawn to The Aurora. They treated it as much as an art installation as a puzzle-solving exercise and even took photos of it to post on their social channels, spreading the GCHQ brand even further.