Escape the Physics Building

SPS Chapter Awards

Escape the Physics Building

2018–19 Marsh White Award

University of Texas at Dallas

Project Lead: Andrew Marder and Austen Adams
Project Advisor: Jason Slinker
Project Summary: The SPS chapter of the University of Texas at Dallas presented its second annual “Escape the Physics Building” event, centered around a physics-themed escape room and hosted in our very own physics building. The hope of this project was to pique interest in physics and showcase what SPS could accomplish to members of the campus community.

Students discuss their experience and learn about SPS after completing the escape challenge.

The challenge: Gain access to the prestigious Dr. Gamma’s laboratory and, upon entering, help Dr. Gamma’s lead lab technician, Denton, prevent the catastrophic failure of a “black hole generator” that is threatening to consume the entire building.
This is what participants face during “Escape the Physics Building,” one of the last SPS events held during the academic year, serving as a final opportunity to get students interested in SPS before they go home for the summer. Our hope is that this event makes a lasting final impression, leading students to return to SPS at the beginning of the next academic year. It also occurs a few weeks before our SPS officer elections, giving members an opportunity to work with the officers and determine if they would like to run for an officer position themselves.

Participants in the event enter the lobby of our local physics building in small groups and are ushered into a nearby classroom, while one of our officers begins a timer. Groups then work together to solve small puzzles, making their way through three separate rooms to save the physics building from destruction! The puzzles include a Nobel Prize–themed riddle, a hidden message within a circuit board (visible with use of a thermal camera), and a magnetized message revealed by cleverly maneuvering some nearby iron shavings. Upon completion, group times are recorded and displayed on a leaderboard, and snack-based prizes are awarded to the winners.

Despite being planned for groups of about four students, one brave soul attempted the escape room entirely on his own. On average, a group of students took about 30 to 40 minutes to complete the escape room, but this individual persevered through an hour-long mission to save the building. Some first-year students who had heard about the escape room also participated. They had the opportunity to interact with our treasurer, Ben, who at the time was playing the role of Denton and led them through their perilous journey with plenty of theatrics.

After the event, we sat down with a handful of participants to get their feedback and thoughts. The vast majority were surprised that it was a group of students who put on the event without large participation by professors or staff. As the officers, we were especially glad to hear this bit of feedback. Some students even expanded on the concept by saying the event made them feel like they, too, could help create something through SPS that “could actually come to fruition.” We believe the project as a whole furthered interest in physics for both current physics students and those not affiliated with SPS or the physics department.

 A duo searches for various scientists’ names to decipher a riddle. Photos courtesy of University of Texas at Dallas SPS chapter.

To learn more about this project, visit