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About 430 people showed up to solve four puzzles which were located at different locations across campus. Containing themes of space, dance, chemistry and mythology, the puzzles took a year to create. Teams of four had less than eight hours to complete them in order to win. Students, alumni and locals gathered at Red Square on Saturday for the second annual WWU Great Puzzle Hunt. Math professor Millie Johnson, invented the game and organized the event. During the game, Johnson, volunteers and other members of the Great Puzzle Hunt club moderated the game. Johnson first hosted the event in 2016. Johnson said the event is a scavenger adventure game where teams of four must solve the four puzzles on the campus in order to unlock the “Meta Puzzle.” To do well in the puzzles, it’s recommended the teams are versatile in areas of knowledge, she said. “[Players] need a versatile team because they need to use teamwork and have a MacGyver bag,” Johnson said.

Photo by James Egaran
Johnson said a “MacGyver bag” is as a bag full of basic school supplies required to complete the puzzles. Teams were also instructed to bring their smartphones. “They are all hands-on construction puzzles. So they need to have scissors, tape, hole punches, colored pencils, erasers,” Johnson said. “They have to build things as a team. One person could not do it.” Grad student, Kyle Rader created the online platform for the game. Rader and Johnson both co-founded the event. “I wrote the entire system,” Rader said. “So we continued to develop the system off of last year, it’s about a year and eight months I think of development and time that’s led up to this.” Rader said he wasn’t surprised about the how many people registered “It was free last time,” Rader said. “Even though we added that payment barrier, we still have over 100 more in attendance.”
Photo by James Egaran
Smartphones are required because the game’s platform is through a website that allows players to receive notifications and keep track of score and progress. Once a team has solved a puzzle, the game platform would notify them what their next puzzle is via their smartphone. Along with working with Rader, Johnson worked with members of the Great Puzzle Hunt Club to make the event happen. Vice president of the club, Jeff Katen, worked on creating the puzzles with Johnson. Katen said it can be hard to balance challenge and fun when making puzzles. “It is pretty hard to get these puzzles into their final form,” Katen said. “The puzzle has to be fun, first of all. Second of all, it has to be solvable, but it can’t be too easy.” Senior Rileigh Greutert participated for the second time and said he was excited for his team to play. “We’re going to get big, we’re going to get mad and we’re going to win,” Greutert said. The event had sponsorships that provided prizes such as gift cards and other products. Millie said she appreciates the fact that people came to participate. “It just warms my heart to see that there’s so many other things people can be doing, but they’re willing to think for a day and be creative,” Johnson said.


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