971   Insight talk

Escaping the choir - STEM escape rooms as a tool for broader engagement.

Author: Amanda Mathieson
University College Dublin, Ireland

Escape rooms are a new and widely popular form of entertainment where players are locked in a room and in groups, must solve puzzles in order to escape. We were keen to explore this format as an engagement tool and ran two rooms over 5 days at a science centre in Malta.

We believed an escape room would inspire intrinsic motivation to participate, by meeting the innate psychological needs described in self-determination theory; namely the needs for autonomy, a sense of competence and interaction with others. The game was also designed to target different kinds of science capital in order for those not normally comfortable with science to confidently engage.

Through our evaluation we found the activities to be extremely successful, drawing players with little interest in science but who were seeking fun activities to create memories with family and friends. We found that by presenting it in the form of a challenge, players are happy to approach difficult scientific content and persist in trying to understand it in order to solve puzzles. A common theme that emerged was that even players who found the puzzles difficult, left having had a rewarding experience they would be happy to repeat. We therefore believe this format has a lot of potential as a future tool for broader engagement with science.

Increasingly, science communicators seek to bridge the gap between science and the arts, embedding science within culture. Escape rooms are now a part of modern culture and we see this as an exciting opportunity to communicate science in ways that are confidence building, entertaining and provide lasting positive associations with science for underserved audiences. This talk will cover our approach for the project, our lessons learned and our ideas for the future of escape rooms as a communication medium.

Co-author: Edward Duca
University of Malta, Malta

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