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University of Wisconsin-Stout has a colossal chomping challenge for students, staff and the community with its first escape room, Jurassic Stout.

Up to nine-member teams must solve a series of puzzles and riddles in multiple rooms to restore the power before, hypothetically, backup generators run out and release dinosaurs from their enclosures into the Menomonie community.

The escape room is a physical adventure game where players use clues, hints and strategy to complete the task in 45 minutes or less, said Adam Ludwig, assistant director of University Housing.

Jurassic Stout is in the lower level of CKTO Hall in an area that was a radio lab. It opened in early November and continues Wednesdays to Sundays through Sunday, May 5. Times available are Wednesdays through Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays 1 and 3 p.m. and Sundays 3 and 5 p.m.

The room is not available during winter break, with the last booking Sunday, Dec. 16, and resuming Wednesday, Jan. 23; and spring break, with the last booking Thursday, March 21, and starting again Wednesday, April 3.

“We’re always looking for unique ways to engage our students. The escape room builds team and leadership skills,” Ludwig said, noting students will staff the room. “The goal of many commercial escape rooms is to get you to come back,” Ludwig said. “Ours is looking at team-building skills. It’s also something for people to do on the weekends.

“It is a moderate challenge,” Ludwig added of the escape room. “There are many puzzles to solve, keys have to be found, there are alpha-numeric locks and digital locking mechanisms.”

Four graphic design and interactive media majors, who work for housing, recently scaled the challenge of Jurassic Stout. The team — Chia Lor, of Hudson, Sam Giesregen, of Lakeland, Minn., Theresa Hang, of Shakopee, Minn., and Nicole Juza, of Manitowoc, — managed to escape, requiring a few hints and little extra time. Ludwig served as their guide, greeting them and introducing them to the room.

Lor, who has been to two other escape rooms, thinks Jurassic Stout is well-designed. “The biggest challenge was how many locks there are,” Lor said, laughing. “It’s good for team-building. You can bond with friends and co-workers. I thought we did really well splitting up and working in pairs.”

Giesregen said he enjoyed Jurassic Stout. “I’m not super great at escape rooms,” he said, noting he has taken part in two other rooms. “I feel like I’m the one distracting other people. I am glad we got it at the end.”

He encourages others to try their puzzle-solving skills in Jurassic Stout because it’s right on campus and economically priced.

Hang, who had never participated in an escape room before, said it was exciting. He envisions taking the teamwork skills he learned back to the housing office. “You see how people react to stress, who takes a leadership role and who follows,” Hang said. “You learn how to communicate with each other under stress. Sometimes it was hard to get everyone on the same page.”

Juza, who also had never been in an escape room before, said it was great fun. “It was so intense, and we were so focused,” Juza said. “It was awesome.”

Ludwig wants future campus escape rooms to be developed and designed by art and design, construction, and game design students. “We see some great pairings with majors and students, and we can have escape rooms built and dreamed by students.”

Plans are underway to have an escape room for summer camp conference groups. The room is slated to change each semester, starting next school year, Ludwig said.

The idea for Jurassic Stout started with Ludwig and a committee involving University Housing, University Recreation and Student Involvement. They include Steve Shaw and Sarah Snyder, resident life coordinators; Trevor Ludwig, Memorial Student Center event and technology crew; Emily Ascher, campus activities coordinator; Houston Taylor, Stout Adventures; Adam Hanson, Student Life Services; and Sarabi Carter, a student who works at Stout Adventures.

The cost is $5 for UW-Stout students, $10 for community members, $30 for UW-Stout student organizations and $40 for campus departments or professional groups. Tickets are available at Teams meet at Stoutfitters inside the Memorial Student Center before heading to the room.

Adam Ludwig previously was involved in building another escape room, a mobile escape “with all the puzzles contained in a suitcase to prevent an evil librarian from stealing all the patrons’ voices.”

He enjoys the competitive aspect of the rooms. “You are immersed in this hypothetical, high-pressure environment. “It challenges you to think critically in that space. I like working with people. I think it is a testament to how you communicate with others.”

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UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.


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