The Great Adamantium Heist – A chemistry themed escape room
This year’s effort has a chemistry feel, and so I thought I’d share it in case anyone wants some inspiration for their own home-escape room. You might need to adapt things a bit depending on what you have to hand (mine includes a 3D printer!)
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have succeeded in creating Unbibium, element 122! And it’s smack in the middle of the Island of Stability! Scientists are amazed by the fact it has a staggeringly long half-life of 524 thousand years. The team have even managed to make a few grams of the new element. Enough for them to test its physical properties. It looks like the Ubb has an incredible tensile strength. In fact it is so strong the press have taken to calling it adamantium.
It turns out there are people who would like to get their hands on this new super metal. And that’s where you come in. You and your team have a reputation for being able to break into anywhere and steal anything. You’ve been approached via your dark-web chat room, to acquire the sample of adamantium. The unknown buyer will pay you £10 million for the sample that’s locked away in the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.
You quickly accept the job and hatch a plan.
The lab is world famous and lots of people want to see where new elements are made. So they regularly hold tours of their facilities. Your plan is to join one of the tours and then slip away and hide in the janitors cupboard in one of the labs. Then once all the scientists have gone home you’ll creep out, find the adamantium and make your escape. You know that the security guards come by about every 63 minutes, so if you time things right you’ll have just over an hour to get the job done. It probably won’t take that long, after all science labs aren’t known for their top-notch security!
The Set Up
I used the following to set up my escape room:
- A padlocked box.
- A combination lockbox (code set to 1716). Hidden in a draw.
- A partial URL for a file on dropbox or similar e.g https://universityofhull.box.com/v/MORSE, hidden in the combination lockbox. The URL will not work in this form. It needs to be completed by replacing ‘Morse’ with the deciphered morse code found in the picture of Lise Mietner.
- Computer – password protected with the ‘DEFGF’
- Postcards, on a notice board
- One postcard contains a description of a holiday in Sweden and particularly Ytterby.
- A 3D printer and and 3D files of the key for the padlock (you can find a printable lock and key at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2564541). If you don’t have access to a 3D printer, then just use a combination lock for the padlocked case and replace the STL file for the key with the combination for the lock.
- Some bismuth to represent Ubb, placed inside the padlocked box.
- A lab coat
- A selection of popular science books, including Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon and Simon Singh’s The Code Book
- A USB stick – hidden in a draw.
- Pencils, paper for note taking.
- Smart speaker streaming music.
I used printed copies of:
- Ubb and a radioactive symbol to stick to the padlocked box
- A selection of element infographics from Andy Brunning’s Compound Chem (mainly for decoration and red herrings)
- The periodic table of element name origins
- A picture of Lisa Meitner, hidden within the picture (just under her name) is some Morse code. Once deciphered this gives the final part of the URL.
- Sheet music for Tom Lehrer’s Element Song. Screwed up and left in the waste bin. If none of the players can read music you may need to include a musical note crib sheet
- A ‘signed’ picture of David Guetta (singer of Titanium) and a ticket from a David Guetta concert.
- Morse code crib sheet hidden in The Code Book.
- Definitions of isotope symbols stuck to the wall e.g.
Together the first 3 clues provide the number for the combination locked box. All three clues are on a handwritten note placed in a lab coat pocket.
Combination = AxBxC
Z of my favourite song = A
Z of lightest element named after Sonia’s 1937 holiday = B
Z of ‘Seek p15 within literature on vanishing cutlery’ = C
Each of these clues refer to the atomic number of an element.
‘My favourite song’ = Titanium (Z = 22) by David Guette. The players should get this from the signed picture and ticket to the Guette concert. If they aren’t familiar with his music they can use the smart speaker to play through his songs.
‘Lightest element named after Sonia’s 1937 holiday’ refers to one of the postcards. And along with the periodic table of element name origins should give them Yttrium (Z= 39)
‘Seek p15 of the literature on vanishing cutlery’ should take the players to page 15 of ‘The Disappearing spoon’. When the note is placed over page 15 the hole in the note reveals ‘helium’ (z=2).
Once they have all the numbers they can work out that 22 x 39 x 2 = 1716, which provides the combination of the lockbox.
Within the combination lock box is a scrap of paper with https://universityofhull.box.com/v/MORSE typed on it, and for an extra clue ‘Meitner’ is written on the back.
The URL will not work until the ‘MORSE’ section is replaced with the deciphered morse code hidden in the picture of Lise Meitner.
The Morse code crib sheet is hidden in The Code Book. Together these allow the players to complete the URL with ‘Meitnerium109’.
To access the URL the players obviously need a computer. The password to the computer is on a sticky note on the back of the monitor. It reads ‘Password: Rust notes from Mr Riddle and a german teacher’s song’. Mr Riddle refers to Tom Riddle (Harry Potter fans should get this) and ‘teacher’ in German is ‘Lehrer’.
In the waste paper bin is a copy of sheet music of Tom Lehrer’s element song. The player’s should get iron and oxygen from the reference to rust, and then reading the notes from the sheet music to get ‘DEFGF’, which will unlock the computer.
Once the players open the computer and go to https://universityofhull.box.com/v/meitnerium109 they will be able to download the files to 3D print the key to the lock. A USB stick can be used to transfer the data to the printer (As an alternative, hide the combination to a second lock at a URL).
Then players simply print the key, open the padlocked case, retrieve the Ubb and make their escape!