Educational escape room entitled “the internet – how it works”.

Your task force has been put in charge to deal with an upcoming catastrophe. The hacker group by the name of Hack4Humans has sent the government a letter in which they announce they will shut the internet down. You and your team have 30 minutes to find where the hackers are hiding. To do so, you will have to learn about data centers, internet cables, IP addresses, and protocols. By mastering these concepts, you will be able to find out where the hackers are hiding and stop their plans.

Within the context of the School Break project, we at SUPSI developed an educational escape room entitled “the internet – how it works”. The purpose of this educational escape room is to teach about the fundamental concepts of the internet. The escape room was presented to two second year middle-school classes. Students had 30 minutes to find the solution and successfully “escape” the room.

Students were presented with a letter written by a hacker group called Hack4Humans in which they expose their intent of shutting down the internet. Students are told they are part of a task force to avoid this from happening: they have to figure where the hackers are situated by solving puzzles and riddles. Students were then divided in four groups, each one of which dealt with a different topic: IP addresses, protocols, data centers, and internet cables.

Each group had first to face a physical crossword which hides a password, which is then used to access a video on a Web site we built for the game (each group had its own computer/tablet and a different password). The video explained the group the fundamentals of the topics they have been assigned. After watching the video and having acquired some background on the subject, the team was presented with a riddle based on the assigned topic. For example, the team dealing with protocols was given five encrypted messages: their task was to figure the correct order of the message and decipher it. By correctly inputting the solution, the page would show a hint to find the hackers.

When each team had found the hint hidden in their path, the class gathered and the teacher presented a map on a beamer. By making use of the hints the class had to work together to find where the hackers were hiding.

Each team managed to successfully escape the room by finding the correct position of the hackers. After the game, there was a post discussion in which the four topics were presented by the students in a discussion moderated by the teacher. Each group recalled what they had learned from their path in the escape game, while the teacher wrote the most important bits on the black board. The teacher also showed, when thought necessary, some of the videos the students had to watch, in order to give students more insights about a certain topic.

At the end of the escape, the students were given a short four-questions questionnaire in which they were asked about their experience in the escape room. The questionnaire included four questions: “How much did you enjoy playing the escape room?” (Q1), “Did you feel engaged while looking for the solutions to the presented puzzles?” (Q2), “Do you think you learned new concepts by playing the escape room and through the post discussion?” (Q3), and “Would you like to play other escape rooms like this one to learn new concepts?” (Q4). Students could answer with a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 meant “not at all” and 5 meant “very much”.

Most of the pupils had fun during the escape game and felt engaged in the resolution of puzzles. Most of them also thought they learned new concepts thanks to it and would like to repeat the experience. It is worth noticing we only got few neutral (score of 3) answers in Q2 and Q3, while Q4 also got one pupil assigning a vote of 2 (not really looking forward to play another escape room). These preliminary results encourage other applications of this educational escape room in order to confirm the gathered data.

We are looking forward to improve the escape room after this first iteration and propose it to other classes. We will soon gather the material and release it in this Web site under a Creative Commons (CC) licence.