LabEscape sequel 'Return to the Lab' open in Urbana
LabEscape, a science-themed escape room at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, first opened in January 2017. Paul Kwiat, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, initiated the nonprofit LabEscape project two years ago as a community outreach effort, with the goal of showing that science can be fun, beautiful, useful, and accessible to all.
To date, nearly 2,500 agents have passed through in groups of up to six participants at a time. The sequel adventure, “Return to the Lab,” picks up the storyline three months after the first adventure. It features all new interactive puzzles that are based on amazing physics phenomena. Just like in the first adventure, no science knowledge is required—all information required to solve these puzzles is provided among the clues in the escape room.
“The sequel’s storyline was already planned when we wrote the first adventure,” shares Kwiat. “It’s really important that the storyline make sense and that the puzzles fit the storyline. I’m excited about these new puzzles, because they really are jaw-dropping. The agents who have revisited the lab have enjoyed the sequel as much or more than the original. Both adventures have received rave reviews. We’re particularly gratified that many of our attendees have described LabEscape as the best escape room they’ve ever done; this is nice testament to the many, many hours the puzzle development teams invested to create the space.”
In his own leading-edge research, Kwiat develops techniques for secretive communications with unbreakable encryption by manipulating the quantum behaviors of entangled photons—so he very much identifies with Dr. S’s storyline.
LabEscape will host a 13-month anniversary party and sequel celebration on Friday, March 2, from 5 to 9 p.m. There will be fun activities, contests, gifts, and free 15-minute escapes. Reservations for full escape adventures must be booked online at LabEscape.org. Tickets are $20 per person, or $15 with a student ID.
Day-to-day operations at LabEscape are handled by U of I undergraduate students who have completed introductory physics courses. Two levels of play are available in each storyline; the ‘challenge’ mode adds several puzzles beyond those in the ‘novice’ mode.
Kwiat plans to keep the escape room open for about two more years, after which he hopes to pack it up as a travelling exhibit on loan to science museums in major U.S. cities.
Financial support for this outreach project has been provided by the National Science Foundation through the American Physical Society, and by the Department of Physics and the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the U of I at Urbana-Champaign. Proceeds above the cost of development and operation will support Urbana-Champaign’s STEM-related community outreach efforts.