Boston’s public broadcaster WGBH is trying out a new way to bring science programming to young audiences: The station’s Emerging Platforms Initiative is set to broadcast a space-themed escape room challenge, dubbed the Escape Lab, on Twitch this coming Monday. The one-hour challenge will be tackled by well-known YouTube family The Skorys, who will be counting on help from the Twitch audience to make it out of the escape room.
The Escape Lab story is set in a futuristic space station orbiting Mars, and will unfold over the course of one hour starting at 4 p.m. PT Monday. The challenge will be hosted by Justin Shaifer, the founder and executive director of Fascinate, an initiative to bring Stem education to underrepresented communities.
Trapology’s Tina Wood building one of the puzzles inside the Escape Lab.
WGBH consulted with NASA for this project, and worked with escape room design company Trapology to create the actual challenges. WGBH’s director of social media Tory Starr told Variety during a recent conversation that the idea was to find challenges that work well in a broadcast scenario. This meant ditching small locks and puzzles that can’t be deciphered on-screen. “We really worked with Trapology to design it for the viewer,” she said.
Throughout the challenge, the Skorys will ask their audience to solve math puzzles, check factoids and deal with unforeseen surprises. “We are throwing a couple of curveballs at them,” Starr said. “We are testing a lot of different things with this pilot.”
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Part of the Escape Lab set.
WGBH build the escape room set for this Twitch live stream in its studio in Boston, and already gave the Twitch audience a couple of sneak peeks during multiple live streams leading up to the event. The station may be producing additional content, as well as invite local members, over the next 2 weeks. Starr said that her team is also already thinking about future escape room live streams, perhaps around topics like forensics and chemistry.
The broadcaster started its Emerging Platforms Initiative earlier this year to explore social video from Twitch to Instagram as a way to become relevant to teens and young adults. “People love PBS as kids. And then we lose them,” said Starr. Most public broadcasting viewers would only rejoin the flock as adults, leaving an entire generation out of reach. “We are really making a bet in introducing ourselves to a new audience,” she said.
The initiative is scheduled to last 3 years, which WGBH also wants to use to share knowledge about best practices with the broader public media ecosystem. Said Star: “We want to become the experts for social video.”