Escape Room Puzzle

A mysterious and deadly outbreak of a new disease has plagued Duke Hospital, reducing patients, doctors, and staff to a zombie-like state. The hospital is now under lock-down, preventing anyone from getting in or out. Your only hope of avoiding the plague is to escape the building and warn the students on campus before it’s too late!

Greg & I building our escape room puzzle

As a fun final project, the 13 BME Design Fellows worked together to create a series of puzzles – an engineering escape room! The project that my friend, Greg, and I designed was a simple device with the clue:

Here’s sugar, ­­spice, and everything nice,

complete the circuit, that’s our advice.

Press play for the code to pass,

I hope you didn’t fail chemistry class!

The trapped students find ingredients scattered throughout room, things like sugar, salt, vinegar, etc. If they fill the gray water well on the side of the device with water, it “completes the circuit.” However, the resistance of water in our well alone is about 180k ohms, not conductive enough to trigger the circuit. Saturating the water with salt lowers the resistance to 20k ohms. Now if the student presses the play button, a Morse code signal is transmitted through the speaker, guiding them to their next puzzle.

Our Morse code puzzle. It’s designed to look like a piano, with the inspiration being creepy-haunted-house-piano-that-makes-noises.

We printed the components using a 3D printer. Inside the device is some basic circuitry powered by a 9V battery and logically controlled with an Arduino microprocessor. The 9V battery has a switch to power the operation of the Arduino. The Arduino is coded to detect when the resistance of the salt water is sufficient. Pressing a play button outputs a sound to a speaker, where the Morse code message is stored on a mini MircoSD card.

Some of the other escape room projects my classmates made included things like detecting the correct ECG signal from “zombies” vs “normal humans,” Fourier Transform matching puzzles, building a magnetic catch-release cabinet, and MATLAB coding.