Week 2 – Ideation

Our team poses in front of the Escape Room Pittsburgh backdrop, wearing items themed to the Tomb Explorer room. Nolan holds a board showing our time of 49:44.

This week was a short week with the Labor Day holiday on Monday requiring us to move around our faculty meeting and core hours. Fortunately, this was still a very productive week for us! 

First, a quick update- this website went live on Week 2! If you have any feedback about the website, please let us know at etc-little-big-engineers@lists.andrew.cmu.edu. We want this website to be a useful artifact to the reader and are always open to suggestions. 


Our artist, Ivy, has been drafting our team logo all week. After getting feedback from our project instructors and ETC faculty Shirley Yee about the readability of initial designs, she has landed on a multicolored isometric acronym design that represents the combination of precise engineering and playful exploration that our project is aiming for.

Many different sketches of different ways of representing the initials LBE.
Initial logo sketching
Four different LBE logo concepts.
More refined logo concepts
A bright primary colored logo that has the initials LBE in isometric 3D block text.
Final logo!

Ideation and Quarters Prep

The biggest task facing our team this week was going from 30 unrelated blue-sky ideas to just 2-3 that we can explore in more detail before quarters next week. After a restful three day weekend, it was easier to eliminate ideas that we felt attached to last week. Some time away helped the narrowing process, but also, we have discovered that our team is mostly made of internal processors. Daily brainstorming meetings were necessary this week, but we always did better keeping meetings shorter instead of getting too bogged down in the details. 

The Playtest to Explore workshop gave us some good feedback on what an ETC student would expect from the festival, but we’re still stuck on other demographics of festival attendees. Next week, we will send out an alumni survey about any experiences they have as festival attendees, not festival exhibitors. This will also be extremely helpful for us to visualize a “normal” festival, since our team has only experienced Covid-era festivals that emphasize at-home participation. It was a good exercise to present points of inspiration and constraints in a composition box, as we move more out of a blue sky phase. 

Our composition box with feedback from students and the faculty workshop facilitators.

By the middle of the week, we had three overarching concepts we saw potential in: Cookie Elves Dystopia, Magic Summoning, and Alienpunk Rave. But we found that it was difficult to explain these ideas at our faculty meeting, because we had neglected specifics of our guest’s interaction in each idea, in favor of high-level theming ideas. So, for the end of the week, we each developed two short pitches for interactions and stories within each idea, to help us explain the key components.

Alienpunk Rave proved to be the weakest idea overall, but had a relatively strong interaction pitch that we plan on presenting at Quarters with a different theme. Magic Summoning is our most hardware-driven pitch, which should give us good feedback about the feasibility of many small hardware interactives. And Keebler Elves Dystopia has the most fleshed out story thus far. At Quarters, we hope to use these ideas as a framing device for a conversation, rather than as pitches that we’re hoping for approval on. We’re hoping to get feedback in the different domains of the project represented by the strong points of each idea- interactions, hardware, and storytelling- and ultimately combine winning concepts from each idea into a cohesive whole. 

A whiteboard showing new ideas for the Summoning theme, as well as brainstorming about "How to be better than BVW?" and 2 possible directions for the space decision. A post it note says "English is HARD."
After a lot of brainstorming, note taking, ideating, iterating… sometimes English is HARD.

We also want to discuss the two different room options for our project at Quarters, and a new idea of using an RFID-based participation prize for small interactives throughout the building. Our faculty even suggested we could create a two-room experience, with both available spaces being used by our team. More to come on details and feasibility of all these possibilities!

Escaping the Tomb

We did the Tomb Explorers room at Escape Room Pittsburgh at the Waterfront for our team bonding, as shown in the image at the top. In addition to giving us a really fun time to spend together, it also taught us a few things about experience design in physical space. 

Our biggest takeaway as guests wasn’t that we escaped the room- it was the puzzle that was physically malfunctioning and caused frustration for us. Even though our experience only needs to be robust for four hours, this is still a huge consideration. When things physically break, guests will leave with a certain level of disappointment no matter how many other things go well. That’s a lesson we’ll have to keep in mind when defining the scope of our experience. 

A completed 1000 piece puzzle of eight cartoon dragons themed after different teas.
Our completed “Tea Dragon Society” puzzle!

Despite the malfunctioning puzzle, we still escaped the room in an impressive 49:44, and we had a great time doing it! After the escape room, several of us went to New Dimension Comics’s Waterfront location, and picked up a few games and jigsaw puzzles for our project room. 

Goals for Next Week

Next week is Quarters, and that will dominate our week. At the advice of our faculty, we will create concept art and short-form narrative synopses for each idea, and determine the most necessary components of each idea to help answer questions about scope. After Quarters, we will have to synthesize the feedback and make a plan for building our minimum viable product. And we’ll keep on going with our branding, website, and various other ETC requirements. See you next week!


Our logo design started taking shape this week as our whole team participated in a ton of brainstorming. We settled on three ideas to present at quarters to start a conversation about the storytelling, interactivity, and hardware domains of the project. We also had our Team Bonding excursion to an escape room, where we learned a lot about puzzle design and operations of an LBE experience.