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Thinking Out of the Box

The aim of the Thinking Out of the Box project was to create a game based on the concept of escape rooms, where players work in teams to solve a series of riddles and puzzles.

Vintage lock from an escape room puzzle.Embedded in the game itself are messages about brain research and human memory, which players discover as they progress from one riddle to the next. Initially, the game was created for the Big Brain Summer School, a two-day event run by the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology to teach Year 9 pupils about brain research.

The first run of the game was a success in terms of learning outcomes and engagement, with 21 players participating across seven different teams.

Following this, the game was signed up for Greater Manchester Higher as a subject-specific session and, so far, has been used with three different groups of Year 9 and 10 pupils, both in school and on campus.

Carmen Ionita, the creator of the game, led these sessions. She says: "These sessions were probably one of the most rewarding parts of the project – to see a whole room of pupils playing the game with such a high level of engagement, picking up on the concepts we use in brain research and asking interesting questions at the end, was fantastic."

Carmen's involvement in the project stemmed from her ability to design games and her increasing desire to deliver public engagement activities.

She has enjoyed the process so much that she has now changed her intended career path and plans to start a social enterprise to create educational games.

"The most important thing to come out of this project is the change in attitude towards science, teamwork, creativity, problem-solving and attention to detail. This is exactly what we set out to do when developing the game," she says.

This project was funded through the Emerging Engagement stream of the University of Manchester ISSF Public Engagement Fund.