UT students conduct escape room with artists, engineers, actors

Judith Matehuala, News Reporter

An escape room made of PVC pipes and physical and electrical puzzles opened to the public March 26 and is run by the Texas Theme Park Engineering Group.

The 45-minute long escape room, “Daedalus: The Lost Wings,” is a collaborative project by more than 20 engineering, theatre and dance and design majors. The room’s puzzles involve the use of different sensors, and attendees must put items in the correct arrangement to unlock a magnetic lock and win the room.

Tickets to the escape room, which is located in the William C. Powers Student Activity Center’s Black Box Theater, are $10 per player, and reservations can be made on the Texas Theme Park Engineering Group’s website until April 2.

“We’ve had a history of being known as the roller coaster club, and we want to expand beyond that,” said Katie Kohutek, the group’s president and a mechanical engineering junior. “We really tried to bring in people from other majors who aren’t just engineers because that is key to designing so many of these experiences.”

Each semester, the engineering group’s members work on projects that are inspired by the recreational industry. Project chair Kendall Duggar said most of the funding for the escape room came from the profits of their haunted house last fall.

“It’s something we’ve never done before, running an escape room of this caliber,” said Duggar, a mechanical engineering sophomore. “In years past we did one smaller one, but it was just set up in a classroom.”

Duggar said the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” book series, specifically the myth of Daedalus from the fourth book, sparked the idea for the theme.

“We thought (Daedalus) was a really interesting person, so we based it around him and his workshop in the labyrinth,” Duggar said. “We had the idea of a Greek mythology-based workshop by the end of the semester in December, and then over the break, we flushed out a story, what puzzles we wanted (and) had a timeline built.”

The Texas Theme Park Engineering Group also received guidance from faculty sponsors J.E. Johnson and Karen Maness, who are associate directors of fabrication for Texas Performing Arts. They approved the structural design, suggested updates, provided storage, lent them props and helped train members in the fabrication shop of the theatre department.

“What I love about what they do is they create their own experiences,” Johnson said. “There’s so many smart, ambitious students on this campus who could really benefit from putting together something as a team like this, even if they’re not going to go into theme parks.”