Posts filed under Libraries / Ready to Code

Unlock!

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Title: Unlock! The Formula, Squeak & Sausage, The Island of Doctor Goorse, The House on the Hill, The Nautalis Traps, The Tonipal’s Treasure, A Noside Story, Tombstone Express, & The Adventures of Oz
Publisher: Asmodee MSRP: $14.99 each
Recommended ages: 10+
Time: 60 Minutes
Reset: Easy
Players:  2 - 6
Recommended Players: 4 Players
App Required: Yes

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Unlock! is a fantastic series of escape rooms. This series is made up of a deck of cards that can easily be reassembled after each playthrough, making them perfect for circulation. Players put cards together, such as a screw and screwdriver, adding the numbers on the cards together to check if their solution is correct. While this system sometimes does allow for accidental puzzle solving, it’s easy enough to realize if you’ve solved something out of order.

Unlock! teaches players how to play by putting them through a tutorial room. It shows players what kinds of puzzles they can anticipate as well as making excellent use of the cards by teaching them step by step with each card they pull.

An app is required to play, but does the work of a Game Master and the various locks found in a live escape room. If players are stuck then hints are given or if a sound is required for a puzzle then the app provides it. It adds a layer of ambient immersion to the puzzles that an analog-only escape room board game would not be able to provide. The one downside is that the need for an app makes the game impossible to play without a device.

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The Formula and Squeak & Sausage rooms are exceptional. The puzzles are creative and intuitive without being completely obvious. They make excellent use of the app in interesting ways. Overall they have just the right kind of outside the box thinking. Unfortunately, The Island of Doctor Goorse left much to be desired. This third installment splits the party, and the puzzles feel obtuse. While the party is split, puzzles need to be simpler due to the party’s brain power being divided. Even when reunited though, some of the solutions were baffling. While we highly recommend the series, you may want to pass over The Island of Doctor Goorse.

If mobile devices are not an issue, then the Unlock series may be the best escape room game for schools and libraries.

 

Article by Donald Dennis & Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

Escape Room the Game

Title: Escape Room the Game
Publisher: Spin Master MSRP: $39.99
Recommended ages: 16+
Time: 60 minutes
Reset: Not without printing or using page protectors & dry erase
Players:  3 - 5
Recommended Players: 3 - 4
App Required: No

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Escape Room the Game easily has some of the most unusual technology of any tabletop escape room experience. When you open the box the first thing you will notice is a giant plastic mechanism with codes and ciphers stamped into the side, a bunch of strange plastic keys, and several bags - each one containing their own scenario. These elements makes Escape Room the Game truly unique and worth exploring.

That this box contains not just one but four different rooms is pretty amazing for the modest price of $40. When you add in the custom plastic keys and the “Chrono Decoder,” you know you’re in for a different kind of experience. The countdown timer adds tension, while sliding the keys into place and checking to see if you’ve found the right answer adds a physical element that sometimes feels lacking in other escape room products. 

The hint system is utilizes red filter technology and players are allowed to look at hints after enough time has passed. We ended up looking at hints even if we didn’t feel like we were behind, and on at least one occasion the hints caused us more trouble than they helped. Overall it’s a great system, but it doesn’t always work.

When it works, the Chrono Decoder is a great prop that also tells you when to look at hints. Escape Room the Game has expansion packs that utilize the Chrono Decoder provided in the base box. The themes are nice, but fairly standard for escape rooms.

Sometimes the Chrono Decoder doesn’t accept the correct keys, which penalizes you time and stalls out the game play. A couple of the puzzles are very poorly designed. It’s no good for more than four players and, except for the Nuclear Countdown room, is best with three.

As much as our group enjoyed Escape Room the Game I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. It is in turns rage-inducingly frustrating and stunningly brilliant. The Prison Break isn’t a great starting scenario and the Temple of the Aztec is the worst of the lot.  (Aztec felt like it needed a couple of extra components that were removed at the last minute.) The best scenario in the starting box set is the Nuclear Countdown room; just make sure you have a charged cell phone ready when you play it.

 

Article by Donald Dennis & Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

CT Games: Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar

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Ages: 3+
Requires Batteries: 4 AA
Single Player
Publisher: Fisher-Price
Price: $49.99

Code-A-Pillar is an electric Caterpillar toy where children plug in segments labeled with commands into the main Caterpillar body and then watch as it carries out each command one by one down the line.

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Code-A-Pillar teaches the basic framework of Coding, inputting commands and the machine following them. The tactile nature and durability of this toy makes it very approachable for young age groups and perfect for experimental play. Users can also create extra challenges for themselves through creating obstacle courses or just trying to get Code-A-Pillars from a start point to a specific endpoint.

Code-A-Pillar is adorable. It’s too cute not to touch and play around with as our teens and patrons can attest. It’s also very durable and has safeguards in place to keep it from breaking, such as a bump sensor that keeps it from running itself into objects. There is also a large variety of different parts that can be purchased to expand what commands Code-A-Pillar is capable of, such as a pack of silly sounds or extra movement with 180 Degree turns and Repeat Action blocks.

Code-A-Pillar is pricey at $49.99 MSRP and availability is limited. It requires 4AA batteries (which are included). Code-A-Pillar is loud and there’s no way to turn down the sound without taking it apart , which may be a big concern if you work with children sensitive to loud noises.

Code-A-Pillar is a fantastic and sturdy introductory toy to programmed movement for young age groups. It’s great for programs of its own if you can afford multiples or do workstations and as supplementary to existing programs such as storytime. While pricey our Code-A-Pillars see a lot of play, and there are a number of venues that sell them at a discount.

 

Article by Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

CT Games: Turing Tumble

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Ages: 8+
Requires Batteries: No
Single player
Publisher: Turing Tumble LLC
Price: $64.95


Turing Tumble is an introduction to computational thinking that was born on Kickstarter. It consists of a white board on a stand, a ton of red and blue marbles, a small plastic key, and six kinds of ramps and bits. The basic idea is that players place the ramps and bits on the board to program a path for the marbles from the top of the board down to the bottom. The key is used to help determine which color marble falls first. It’s easy to learn, challenging to master, and really fun once you’ve got the hang of it.

The game also comes with a 100-page booklet that serves as instructions,  provides challenges, and tells the story of Alia, the girl on the box cover, as she explores an alien maze and makes an unexpected friend. It helps that the booklet is broken up like an RPG campaign or a video game: Alia’s story is the ‘cinematic’ scene between levels.

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Turing Tumble is really good at introducing players to things like pattern recognition, designing based on trial and error, and breaking up big problems into smaller, sequential ones. It’s meant for players 8 and up and runs best as a single-player game, but I’ve seen smaller children trying it out under supervision and it can also be played with a group.

Its main flaw is that the marbles are small, easy to lose, and can be difficult to collect and put in place. The board doesn’t come with something like a tray to catch them if they bounce free, and gravity can make things a little unpredictable at times. With so many losable pieces and a price tag of $64.95, it may be a little too expensive and breakable for some libraries and schools.

All in all, we recommend Turing Tumble as a fun way to teach kids computational thinking. It’s not too shabby for the adults either.

 

Article by Ben Blythe
Ben can be found on Twitter @FlailingWriter. He's also got a blog on WordPress. And he even reviews things on GoodReads!
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

Computational Thinking

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In the preface to their Exploring Computational Thinking collection, Google defines computational thinking as a “problem solving process.” Computational thinkers take a problem and break it down into smaller sections, then resolve each section in a particular order t o get a desired outcome. It requires planning, pattern recognition, and learning how to operate within certain boundaries (what you can do, how you can do it, what resources you have on hand, etc.).

It’s worth pausing to note that while there is plenty of overlap, computational thinking is different from the scientific method or critical thinking because of its focus on process and predetermined outcome. It’s sort of like the difference between scientists, academics, and engineers: scientists and academics study, engineers build. Their methods have similar processes but they’re shaped by different goals.

Computational thinking is emerging as a cornerstone in STEM education. As its name implies, it’s a good skill to have in the information age, and tech companies in particular value it for how readily it translates into programming. The same basic approach of breaking down a big problem and finding solutions piece-by-piece can be applied across any curriculum: it’s a core tenet of outlining a paper, solving mathematical equations, building a bot, or drawing a picture.

Now let’s consider what makes board games an ideal tool for teaching computational thinking.

Board games…

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  • …rely a lot on planning your next move (whether it’s competitive like Machi Koro or collaborative like Mechs vs. Minions)
  • …often revolve around recognizing patterns (like spotting which cities will be infected in the next Pandemic outbreak)
  • …require you to operate within certain boundaries (rules of the game, what materials you have to work with, what you’re allowed to know going in, etc.)
  • …often involve breaking a bigger problem down into smaller, more manageable ones (Escape the Room-type games tend to be really good at this)

 

It’s not just newer games that do this! Even old stalwarts like Chess and Monopoly can teach the basics of computational thinking. And lest you think this is all kid stuff: The CIA has been using board games to train its analysts for years. They even have their own version of Pandemic. Other government agencies and private businesses have also realized the value of board games for training and teambuilding, leading to a huge uptick in escape rooms and corporate game libraries.

The important thing is that your library—whether it’s in a school or a secret government base on the moon—has a good stock of board games to choose from. Sure, something like Tsuro is about running your opponents off the board, but the real value of the game is the lessons you learned (and applied) along the way.

 

Article by Ben Blythe
You can find Ben on Twitter @FlailingWriter. He's also got a blog on WordPress. And he even reviews things on GoodReads!
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

Webby's Challenge: Breadboard Puzzle

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Webby’s Challenge premiered at ShushCon 2018 and we made a couple modifications from the Print and Play Model to spiff it up. The biggest modification was the Breadboard puzzle. We used some Breadboard and wires that we had laying around to give participants a more tangible experience in place of the default circuitry puzzle. The following puzzle replaces the Circuit Puzzle in Webby's Challenge, but can be used as a standalone puzzle or incorporated in a different Escape Room all together.

Setup

Breadboard
8x Wires
3x Green LEDs
2x Yellow LEDs
2x Blue LEDs
2x AA Battery Pack
2xAA Batteries
Printer
Scissors

  • Print the Breadboard Puzzle Kit.
  • Set out the 3x Very Important sheets, Instructional sheet, Breadboard, Battery Pack sans batteries, all the wires, and LEDs.
  • Set the 2x AA batteries with one of the sets of clues that players need to unlock. Make sure it isn't the stack that unlocks from solving this puzzle (Answer:3220).
 Fun Fact: The reason there are no Red LEDs in the room is due to technical difficulties we had with them burning out and smoking. Make sure to try out various setups ahead of time to make sure all of your LEDs are in working order, and be sure to keep spares on hand.

Fun Fact: The reason there are no Red LEDs in the room is due to technical difficulties we had with them burning out and smoking. Make sure to try out various setups ahead of time to make sure all of your LEDs are in working order, and be sure to keep spares on hand.

In this puzzle, participants find the LEDs, wires, Breadboard, instructional papers, and battery pack scattered in the room but not the 2x AA Batteries. This keeps participants from immediately burning out the batteries by touching the positive and negative charges together. It also gives them time to read the various instructional warnings laid out on the table before they truly get started on the puzzle.

The batteries will be unlocked with which ever answer they correctly solve first. If using lock boxes with Webby’s Challenge, then put the batteries in either the Robot Path or the Colored Shapes lockboxes.

Participants will use the parts list to make sure they have all of the pieces they need. They’ll then use the list with the various numbers and letters to place the wires and LEDs in the correct sections of the breadboard’s grid. They’ll also have to make sure to put the batteries into the battery pack. Once everything is assembled the LEDs will light up and participants will be able to see what colors the LEDs are. They’ll use this information with the colored boxes page to get a 4 digit combination either to give to the moderator or for a 4 digit lock, or if you’re feeling extra spiffy, a 4 digit color lock.

 

Access Webby's Challenge for free on Google Drive

 

Article by Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

Posted on May 8, 2018 and filed under Libraries / Ready to Code, Tabletop, Escape Rooms.

Webby’s Challenge: A Coding Escape Room

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Webby’s Challenge is an Escape Room designed by Stephanie Frey of the Georgetown County Library System for the Ready to Code Toolkit. It is an experience meant to be used as either an introduction or supplementary material to Computational Thinking and Coding Activities. It starts with a variety of framework puzzles to get participants in the right mindset and as they unlock new clues they delving into coding shapes through Khan Academy.

Webby’s Challenge requires a computer and internet access. The experience can be embellished with the use of lock boxes, like from a Breakout EDU kit, but they are not required. If not using lockboxes participants will give their answers to the Moderator who will then give them their newly unlocked clues. It works best with ages 10+ youths and can be played by 3 - 6 players.

Access Webby's Challenge for free on Google Drive

Setup

 We laminated our Colors and Shapes page and used dry erase markers instead of covering the squares.

We laminated our Colors and Shapes page and used dry erase markers instead of covering the squares.

Materials

Printer
Computer with Internet Access
Scissors
Paper bits to cover squares
Figurine to serve as a robot token
Webby’s Challenge Kit
 

  • First, print out the kit. It has all of the physical puzzles you’ll need. All the items on pages 1-9 will be available to players upfront, as well as all the numbers only coordinate slips.

  • Cut out everything with a dotted line; scatter or hide the pieces as appropriate. Hiding pieces works better with younger age groups, while hidden pieces may stump older players. Any left over scraps can be cut up and used by players to cover the squares of the Colors and Shapes page.

 
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Starting Items:

  • Colors and Shapes Page p1
  • Conditional Directions p2
  • Conditionals Info Guide p3
  • Robot Shape Maze p4
  • Robot Instructions p5
  • 4x Directional Arrows p5
  • Webdings Translator p6
  • Webby’s Note p7
  • Circuitry & LED Page p8
  • Colored Squares Input p9
  • Webby Work Station Web Address p9
  • 10x Number Coordinate Paper Slips p13 & 14
  • 2x Hint Cards p9
  • Pages 10 - 14 will mostly be clues that players need to unlock. Gather up all of the other pieces into their proper groups. If using lock boxes, set your locks to each answer and put the assigned materials in each box. If not using locks, make piles of each material. You may want to use a note on top to differentiate when participants receive each pile.

Robot Path Answer:  Up, Right, Down, Left

Get Rect Unlock p10
rect(x,y,w,h); Slip p13
Webding Small Note p11

Colored Squares Conditionals Answer: 509

Webby WIP Webpage p11

LED Colored Squares Answer: 3220

Draw the Line Unlock p11
line(x1,y1,x2,y2); p14

Fix the Code Puzzle: MOUSE

Epic Ellipse Unlock p10
2x ellipse(x,y,w,h); p12
fill(0, 0, 0); & fill(255, 255, 255); Slip p12

FINAL ANSWER: 8241

  • Make sure to have a computer available for players to use.

  • Setup a final item for your players to discover once they’ve solved the final puzzle.

What the players unlock from the final puzzle can vary greatly. The story line I usually run is one where Webby an infamous hacker has stolen government documents and the players are trying to pass her trials to retrieve them. I usually have the players unlock redacted government documents out of a final safe. The story you run can vary depending on what would be interesting for your players and the stakes can be as great or low as you think interests them; Whether it’s Webby has locked them in a room filling with poison and players must solve the puzzles to escape, players must retrieve some candy she stole, or whatever story you want to tell as the Moderator. If you want to run the story I’ve provided you can read the paragraph below for your players and embellish it as you please.

Webby the Document Thief Story

Webby is an infamous hacker. Recently, she’s stolen some important government documents. You’ve been sent in as a team to infiltrate her hideout and recover what she’s stolen before it can get into the wrong hands. Webby however has left a number of puzzles to test your skill, and if you can overcome her trials she’ll let you take the documents.

Good luck!

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Running the Room

  • Make sure to tell your chosen set up story to the players.
  • Explain what parts of the room don’t need to be moved or touched, such as if you have a room with bookshelves or pictures frames that are completely unrelated.
  • Also explain to your players that if they get stuck they can give the Moderator one of the hint cards to help them through the experience. It’s best to give hints that point players in the right direction without giving them the answers; Such as, pointing out what pieces players haven’t used yet, asking what sets of pieces might have in common, and other leading questions.

Puzzles

Conditional Puzzle: 509

Players use conditional statements to cover up or leave them uncovered the square spaces and reveal a number. Example:

If (sun=green){

Space=uncovered;

}else if (sun=other color){

Space=covered;

}

This statement shows that any suns that are green will be uncovered. If the sun however is any other colors then the space is covered.

Robot Shape Maze: Up, Right, Down, Left

Players assign directions they find in the room to specific shapes. When the Robot Token is on a shape then it will follow the command that’s been assigned to that shape. Players needs to get the robot to the end of the maze. The order of the directions is the answer to the puzzle.

Circuit Puzzle: 3220

Players look at what wires are connected to the battery. Players then need to count each color of LED that would light up. The order of the number code is the order that the colors appear on on the color input line. (If you know LEDs and breadboards, you can make this a much more technology oriented puzzle.) 

Fix the Code Puzzle: MOUSE

Players use the KhanAcademy guide to help them determine how to fix the broken code. Once players have fully repaired the code, a picture of a mouse will appear with the word MOUSE under it. MOUSE is the answer to this puzzle.

Code the Answer Puzzle: 8241

Players use the slips of paper that they find throughout the room. They organize them by font. Players then replace the (x,y,h,w) of lines of code with the coordinates they’ve found. Through this they use code to create shapes that form numbers. This gives them the final answer for the room.

 We replaced the circuit puzzle with a breadboard.  It isn't necessary, but it is pretty cool.

We replaced the circuit puzzle with a breadboard.  It isn't necessary, but it is pretty cool.

Article by Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
Games in Schools and Libraries Group on Facebook 
Games in Schools and Libraries Guild at Board Game Geek
Email us: schoolsandlibraries@gmail.com

Posted on May 2, 2018 and filed under Escape Rooms, Libraries / Ready to Code.