By Chris Bensen, Cloud Experience Developer at Oracle
I’ve built a lot of crazy things in my life but the “Escape Rooms” for Code One 2018 might just be one of the craziest. And funnest! The initial idea for our escape room came from Toni Epple where a Java based escape room was built for a German conference. We thought it was rather good, and escape rooms are trendy and fun so we decided to dial it up to eleven for 2018 Code One attendees. The concept was to have two escape rooms, one with a Java developer theme and one with the superhero theme of the developer keynote, and that’s when Duke’s Lab and Superhero Escape were born.
We wanted to build a demo that was different than what is normally at a conference and make the rooms feel like real rooms. I actually built two rooms with 2x4 construction in my driveway. Each room consisted of two eight foot cubed rooms that could be split in two pieces for easy shipping. And shipping wasn’t easy as we only had 1/4” of clearance! Inside the walls were faux brick to have the Brooklyn New York look and feel where many of the Marvel comics take place. The faux brick is a particle board product that can be purchased at your favorite local hardware store and is fire retardant so it’s a turnkey solution.
Many escape rooms contain physical puzzles and with CodeOne being a conference about programming languages it seemed fitting to infuse electronics and software into each puzzle. Each room was powered by a 24 volt 12 amp power supply which is the same power supply used to power an Ultimaker 3D printers. Using voltage regulators this was stepped down to 12 volts and in some cases 5 and 3.3 volts depending on the needs. Throughout the room conduit was run with custom 3D printed outlets to power each device using aviation connectors because they are super secure.
The project took just over two months to build, over 100 unique 3D printed parts were created and four 3D printers were running nearly 24by7 to produce over 400 parts total. 8 Arduinos and 5 Raspberry Pi ran the rooms with various electronics for sensors, displays, sounds and movement. The custom software was written using Python, Bash, C/C++ and Java.
At the heart of Duke’s Lab and the final puzzle is a wooden crate with two locks. The intention was to look like something out of a Bond film or Indiana Jones. Once you open it you are presented with two devices as seen in the photo below. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise but let’s just say most people that open the crate get a little heart thump as the countdown timer starts ticking when the create is opened!
At the heart of Superhero Escape we have The Mighty Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, Captain America’s shield and Iron Man’s arc reactor. The idea was to bring these three props to life and integrate them into an escape room of super proportions. And given the number of people that solved the puzzle and exited the room with Cap’s shield on one arm and Mjölnir in the other, I would say it was a resounding success!
The goal and final puzzle for Superhero Escape is to wield Mjölnir. Mjölnir was held to the floor of the escape room by a very powerful electromagnet. At the heart of the hammer is a piece of solid 1” thick steel I had custom machined to my specifications connected to a pipe.
The shell is one solid 3D print taking over 24 hours and an entire 1 kilogram of filament. For those that don’t know, that is an entire roll. Exactly an entire roll!
As with any project I learned a lot. I leveraged all my knowledge of digital fabrication, traditional fabrication, electronics, programming, wood working and puzzles and did things I wasn’t sure were possible, especially in the timeframe we had. That’s what being an Oracle Groudbreaker is all about. And for all those Groudbreakers out there, keep dreaming and learning because you will never know when you’ll be asked to build something that will take every bit of knowledge you have to build something amazing.