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Marble Surface

2022 TxTPEG Escape Room

During the spring of 2022 the Texas Theme Park Engineering and Design Group, a student organization I am part of at UT, created our most ambitious project ever-- a fully functioning escape room in the university's black box theatre.

We worked as a team over winter break to develop the story for the room. After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to pursue the idea that you would be transported back in time to Daedalus's Workshop, where you would be tasked with stealing an extra set of wings he had created before they could fall into King Minos's hands. Once we had developed the story we then developed the puzzle sequence, making blueprints for each of the puzzles that would be in the room, as well as the order in which they would be solved.

Back on campus after break, I took up a role as the "right hand man" for our organization's project chair, helping to divide up the tasks that needed to be completed, create and maintain schedules for fabrication and purchasing, and ensure that schedules were being adhered to. I had served a similar project management role in the fall for our haunted house project, although it was nice that with this project I was able to hand off the majority of the budgeting and marketing tasks to others, which freed up some time to work more directly with fabrication and set design in this project. 

I also played a key role in the operation of the escape room. I handled the ticket sales platform, helped write the SOP, helped to construct the room, and served as a game guide for countless guests. I am good at solving problems quickly under pressure, and helped solve countless problems that sprung up during operation, from broken electronics to guests accidentally shattering set pieces.

Our escape room was a massive success, bringing in over 240 guests and making over $800 in profit, thanks largely to positive word of mouth advertising (our room sold out the last two days of operation as word spread around campus about how much fun it was) and a carefully controlled budget that kept costs low (I played a key role in ensuring this budget was controlled). 

The escape room also took home top awards at the 2022 Themed Attraction Student Showcase, winning Best in Show, Best in Class - Guest Narrative, Best in Class - Operations / Project Management / Budgeting, and a Special Achievement in Feasibility, as well as honorable mentions for storytelling, placemaking, and technology.

Project Management

Most of my work on this project was project management oriented. With the scope of our projects growing, the project chair needed help with all of the work that popped up, and so I served as that "right hand man". My main job was to work with the project chair to develop a project schedule. This schedule contained deadlines for making various types of purchases, timelines for completing the puzzles and props, and planned outings for searching for props and decorations. Once we had this schedule I was tasked with keeping it up to date, making changes where necessary, tracking task completion, as well as reminding people of their deadlines and ensuring that they were met. I also worked closely with the treasurer in charge of the budget, as I had been in charge of the budget for the fall project and helped teach the new treasurer how to manage the budget, decide what subcommittees needed what budget, and control overall spending. Below is a screenshot of just one of the documents I used to manage the teams-- an item obtainment document that tracked the progress of each of the large items inside of the room. 

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Master Planning

One of the things that I felt our fall haunted house lacked was good master planning, and this is something I sought to improve with the spring escape room. The haunted house had areas that were void of props and furniture, leading to a disjointed feel. This was fine in a haunted house where people were running from room to room anyway, but I knew we had to improve with the escape room where people would be in the room for a while. I created a blueprint for the room, deciding where we would need furniture pieces, where each puzzle would go, and what props we were looking for. My blueprint became the model that we built the room off of. Because we had planned the room so well, we didn't have the same problem with emptiness as the haunted house had had. I also worked with the structural team to list out all of the pvc lengths and joints needed on the blueprint so it could be used for construction

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Fabrication - Wing Box

What was really exciting about this project was that I actually got to physically design some of the set myself. I worked with a team to pick out the furniture pieces we borrowed from the prop shop at UT, playing a key role in picking the color scheme for furniture. I also was a staunch advocate for spending the extra money to buy high-quality wall material, which greatly improved the aesthetics of our final product. The two pieces that I put the most effort into were the wings and the map puzzle. I fabricated a box from wood to display the wings in, using a strip of LED lights to illuminate the wings themselves inside. I created the wings themselves from cardboard, feathers, and fake leather. For the "lock" I found a 3D printing lock design online and modified it slightly. I put a magnet inside of the lock so that the metal ball that was the "key" to unlocking the box would go into the hole. Once the ball was in the hole the lighting effect was manually triggered by the game guide, signifying that the game had been won. 

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Fabrication -- Compass Puzzle

The other item in the room that I directly fabricated was the compass puzzle. This was a table with painted circles on it. When a compass was placed on the circles in the order of the roman numerals painted on each circle, the compass pointed in different directions which provided the directional code to a directional lock. This effect was achieved by strategically placing magnets under the top of the table so that the compass pointed in a different direction when it was on each circle. I developed the idea for this puzzle and fabricated it myself. It was a huge hit with our guests, who found the spinning compass effect very cool. However, it was not without its flaws, as one group accidentally reversed the polarity of the compass after trying to use it to solve a completely different puzzle, which was an unexpected difficulty!

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Additional Photos

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