The fourth edition of ZK Hack Online ended a couple weeks ago, and it was in many ways a very memorable one!

As Puzzle Partners, the Geometry Research team concocted a series of 3 cryptographic puzzles for our community of cryptography enthusiasts to solve. The rewards? Fame and glory, of course, but also fantastic prizes in collaboration with ZKV, our Prize Partner.

Besides the puzzle competition, ZK Hack IV also hosted weekly sessions with the participation of our other Workshop Partners, RISC Zero and Polygon. The recordings of these sessions are all available on the Youtube channel of our Media Partner, Zero Knowledge FM. And we ended with a bang, hosting a discussion panel with all-star speakers followed by an online ZK job fair!

In this article we will look back at these four weeks, spanning from January 16th to February 6th – here’s what happened and how.

ZK Hack IV was not a hackathon

Session #1 with Geometry Research (link)

ZK Jargon Decoder

In our initial online session, Nico Mohnblatt from Geometry Research introduced the ZK Jargon Decoder, addressing common challenges faced by newcomers in the ZK space: the complex terminology and its inconsistent use. Originally a personal tool, the ZK Jargon Decoder is now available online and offers informal explanations of ZK terms in “normal” English.

Nico and Anna during the ZK Jargon Decoder session

Before delving into the Decoder, Nico, also a co-host of Anna’s Zero Knowledge Podcast, briefly introduced Geometry Research – the same research team some people might have known from Geometry but now collaborating independently, and still working on cryptography protocols and security analysis.

Anna and Nico then covered basic ZK concepts and addressed numerous questions from the ZK Hack IV audience, ranging from NTT vs FFTs to polynomial IOP or soundness. This provided our attendees, with varying expertise, insights into cryptographic algorithms and led to lively interactions, definitely putting ZK Hack IV on the right track!

Nico’s chart of security properties (with some of the commons acronyms)

Session #2 with RISC Zero (link)

Get Rusty with RISC Zero: Build your ZK Rust Application

The next ZK Hack IV workshop introduced RISC Zero’s ZKVM and Bonsai, for building ZK apps in Rust. CEO Brian Retford discussed RISC Zero’s mission, emphasizing ZKVM’s versatility for various applications but also its challenges. Once again, the audience was the other main protagonist of a lively Q&A session, covering topics from ZK machine learning to ZKVM performance.

Dr. Iryna Tsimashenka then explained RISC Zero’s ZKVM architecture and proof system scalability. She also demonstrated how the quick start guide facilitates the creation of projects using the ZKVM, how to test code and more generally how to get ready to create production ready applications.In the last segment, Hans Martin discussed Bonsai’s use for privacy and security in internet logins, integrating ZK with traditional authentication for web3 applications. 

Session #3 with Polygon (link)

Provable State Changes: The Miden Transaction Kernel

In this workshop, Dominik Schmidt and Bobbin Threadbare from Polygon explored Polygon Miden, providing ZK Hack IV audience with insights into Miden VM and its Transaction Kernel. Bobbin explained Miden VM’s execution process and design using MASM language, clarifying transaction concepts within Miden’s rollup.

Dominik and Bobbin during Polygon Miden session

As usual, the engaged audience had a lot of questions for Bobbin, about topics like performance, invalid operations, or proof generation details. The resulting discussions not only shed further light on the intricacies of Miden, but also offered broader insights into its role within the overarching ZK ecosystem.

In the final part, Dominik focused on the Transaction Kernel’s role in validating state changes, detailing its design and functionality, illustrating his explanations with code snippets for clarity, and ultimately emphasizing Kernel’s importance in secure state transitions. 

Session #4 with Anna & Panelists (link)

ZK Panel: What’s it really like working in ZK?

The ZK Hack IV finale featured a panel discussion on working in ZK, moderated by Anna Rose with Nico Mohnblatt, Brian Retford, and Brendan Farmer. Each shared their journey into ZK, highlighting their diverse backgrounds and motivations. They discussed early challenges in accessing ZK resources and the steep learning curve, emphasizing perseverance and community support. Skills needed for ZK work were outlined, such as mathematical maturity and coding proficiency.

Anna, Nico, Brian and Brendan during ZK Hack IV discussion panel

The many questions (again!) from ZK Hack IV audience covered product development, education, ZK audits, or technical ZK queries. Our panelists also discussed future trends, such as smaller fields, multi-linear protocols for faster provers or integrating ZK into existing infrastructure for privacy apps (citing ZK Email and ZK Login).

Overall, the discussion underscored the growth and collaboration opportunities in ZK, a message that strongly resonates with ZK Hack mission. This was an excellent way to get ready for ZK Hack IV grand finale: the ZK Job Fair on!

ZK Job Fair 

Hosted on

Our online ZK Job Fair was an opportunity for ZK Hack IV participants to meet with our sponsors’ teams and discuss job openings published on the ZK Jobsboard… or whichever topic they liked, ZK related or not!

Walking into ZK Hack IV Job Fair on

Hosted on, a virtual space platform, the attendees were able to interact with each other in real-time, almost as if they were in the same physical location. We received great feedback from the participants on both sides (sponsors & job hunters), hopefully we will have some success stories to share in the near future!

Puzzle Competition 

Numbers, Winners, Prizes

ZK Hack IV Puzzle Competition was definitely a record edition! 

The full leaderboard of all the participants can be found on ZK Hack IV website, together with all the puzzle details and results, and the workshops’ recordings.
If you want to dive more into the technical details and explanations about the puzzles created by Geometry Research, check out this great summary put together by Zellic, whose team ranked second: ZK Hack IV Puzzles Retrospective by Zellic.

Also, first time a bear presented a cryptographic puzzle (probably)

Closing words

With close to 1,500 registrations cumulated over the four online events, ZK Hack IV had a remarkable turnout as well. We want to thank all the attendees for making the online sessions so lively with their questions, all the participants to the puzzle competition, and of course ZK Hack IV partners who made it possible.

In summary – it was great! and we’re looking forward to the next ZK Hack event…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *