i2 2022 Project Update: Project Escape: Doomsday

My project is going really well, although there were quite a few obstacles along the way. My initial idea for this project was to build a grand escape room for people to test out. What I didn’t realize at first was that it was not going to be possible for me to build a life-sized theme set, or redesign an entire room. At the beginning of the fall semester, my sister gave me the idea to do an escape room. Over the past few years, we really enjoyed doing escape rooms, and I thought that it would be really cool to build one. The escape rooms we did were very impressive, not only in terms of the complexities of the puzzles, but also in a physical scale as well. Since I had limited materials and building space, I needed to refine my project and change a few things. 

First of all, I made several edits to my design and layout of the room. My end goal was to have the participants learn from the experience, and develop or strengthen a variety of skills (trust, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) that will help them to solve real-world problems by viewing their surroundings with more insight and different perspectives while working with others. This meant that I would need to include a variety of puzzles that would require different thinking methods to solve, from our 5 senses to teamwork. Therefore, I would need to keep these goals in mind as I designed each and every one of these puzzles from scratch.

Second, I didn’t know the layout of the room I was going to have my participants test in, so I needed to design my puzzles without using any components of the actual room. That was how I came up with the idea of boxes with different types of locks on them. I refined my project to require the participants to go in consecutive order to open the boxes and use the clues inside to escape. After I had finalized the puzzles and sequenced them, I waited for my materials to arrive. Once I was ready to start constructing my materials, a lot of barriers started to fall into place. With the SHC basketball season just beginning, and as classes became more challenging, I just couldn’t seem to find the time to work on my project. 

I did not start building until the beginning of February, which I realized was a mistake. One difficulty was that the lock ring on the latch was not big enough to slide the lock through; I had 6 locked boxes. I did not double-check the measurements before I ordered them, so I didn’t anticipate that they wouldn’t fit. Because of this, I needed to alter the locks. Another obstacle I didn’t expect was the installation of my keypad lock onto a drawer. This was probably the most challenging situation throughout this whole process. What I thought was going to take only 30 minutes ended up requiring more than 6 hours. The keypad lock did not fit onto the drawer; I was going to have to drill holes into it for the wires to pass through. Also, the material that kept the drawer from opening was not flush with the top of the drawer, so I was going to need more wood. I also didn’t realize that if I designed something on Minecraft, there were 2 editions, Java and Bedrock, and only Java was able to be played on a computer. I still haven’t decided whether to have the participants use an IPad or if I should purchase the Java edition on my Mac.

One insight that I have gained from this project is that escape rooms are extremely difficult, as instead of just a participant, I was also the designer, the builder, and the tester as well. I still have to finish building a couple more things before performing multiple test runs to make sure that everything runs smoothly and/or there are no shortcuts. Then I have to analyze the behavior of the participants and interview them to see what they had learned; however, this part will only be completed if I have enough time.

Lastly, three people who have been incredibly helpful and supportive are my parents and my sister. A few weeks ago, my dad sat down with me to smooth out all the details. I was extremely thankful that he took the time to talk it out with me. He has been really supportive and I will be forever grateful that he helped me install the keypad lock onto the very uncooperative drawer. My younger sister, Morgan, has been the best support system, and she really demonstrated her devotion to me while I worked on this project. She always saw me thinking about my project, and she was always there to lend a helping hand. One day I couldn’t figure out how to connect the last step to the escape, so she taught me how to design a switch circuit. My mom helped me get a few last minute materials. When I forgot that I needed a drawer to install the keypad lock, my mom drove me all the way out to Emeryville to buy one. When I realized that I wasn’t able to install a different door knob into one of the classroom doors, she helped me order a gadget that would lock the door from the inside.

As of two weeks ago, I had about 50 To-Do’s; now I have it down to about 5. I will always be super thankful for my family and everyone else who is there to support me as I started, not just this project, but my first year of high school at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.