How we built it – 2017 Anniversary Escape Room Edition

For our anniversary party, we wanted to do something fun, but also different. Doug originally wanted to do two different rooms, each one with a different theme, but we quickly decided that might be a bit much to take on.

Doug sketched out details for the room plan using Google Docs and a whiteboard at Synergy Mill. Then we grab a load of lumber and set to work putting together a simple frame, a 10’x10′ room with 2x4s on 2′ centers. We then wrapped the room in contractor paper, coming down from the center of the room to the outside edges to give it a little bit more of a submarine feel.

Doug outlined four puzzles that he wanted to use for the room. The goal was do make it something that could be solved in 20 minutes or less. Most groups did 15-18 minutes, with a couple coming in under 10 minutes.

The first puzzle was to be a collaborative challenge, and Joey came up with a great way to setup this puzzle using conduit and string/rope. It didn’t end up working quite like we hoped since most challengers pulled on the rope until the rope was visible in the hole in the wall and then grabbed the rope and fished it out. Our hope had been that they would have to pull on two separate cords in order to adjust the hanging key to line up with the hole in the wall, so next time around we’ll have to adjust our strategy. Joey also crossed the ropes so that the direction you pulled was counter intuitive.

The second puzzle was finding what the key went to. We had a safe that was disguised as a book hidden on a bookshelf. Doug didn’t realize he had some old bookmarks so there were many players who thought that these books also contained other clues.

Inside the book was a cool puzzle that Garrett found on Thingiverse and printed on our Monoprice printer. The puzzle contained the code for the lock on the escape door, encrypted in a Cesar Cipher, which leads us to our final puzzle.

Also in the room was a Raspberry Pi that Doug wrote an app for, requiring a username/password which was hidden on a sticky note under the keyboard. After logging in players were presented with a fake email screen appearing to belong to the evil scientist who commissioned their capture. For a full run down on Doug’s app, check out his blog post, and the github repository. Hidden in one of the folders of the app was the cipher key.

Build time:

  • Puzzle and idea: 10 hours
  • App: 30+ hours
  • Room: 25+ hours
  • Total: 55+ hours

Bill of Materials:

  • 10′ 2x4s – 10
  • 8′ 2x4s – 24
  • 4’x8’x1/4″ plywood – 1
  • 32″ contractor paper – 2 rolls
  • hasps – 2
  • word lock – 1
  • combo lock – 1
  • 1/2″ electrical conduit – ~20′
  • raspberry pi – 1
  • raspberry pi screen – 1
  • keyboard – 1
  • rpi power supply – 1