Scottish students’ ‘space prison’ escape room wins the Cracking the Code challenge and will now be built at their school
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A team of students from Elgin Academy, Moray, Scotland, have been announced as winners of the Cracking the Code competition. As winners of the competition, set up to encourage students to use maths creatively, their ‘space prison’ escape room design will be turned into a reality in autumn this year and they will receive £2,000 to support maths programmes in their school.

The competition, run by Nesta, the innovation foundation, in partnership with Tata group and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), asked students to design their own crystal maze style escape room by coming up with a storyline and a series of puzzles that must be solved to get out. The Cracking the Code competition is part of the Maths Mission, a series of pilots seeking to find the most effective ways to increase young people’s interest in maths, and improve their collaborative problem-solving skills.

The winning team of 11-14 year olds, going by the name of HMS Supanova, set its escape room scenario in a space prison of the future, where prisoners are held and then ejected out into space. Having been framed for a crime, the escape room player must solve the puzzles in time in order to avoid being lost in space forever. The team went above and beyond the brief, created a video, 3D printed the escape room and made an impressive presentation.

Winners escape room

The final of the competition, held at The Crystal in London, saw nine teams of finalists from schools across the UK present their ideas to a panel of eight judges, including Bruno Ready, founder of Times Table Rockstars, Maggie Steel of Funkey Maths, Zoe Cunningham, managing director of Softwire, Will Woods, an escape room expert, and a number of volunteers from TCS.

In its first year, 118 schools registered for the competition from across the UK, with 400 students participating, consisting of 41% boys and 59% girls.

A team from Al-Ashraf Secondary School for Girls, Gloucestershire, were announced as runners up for their escape room based in a museum in the year 3000, where participants have to crack the code to get out of the room before time runs out. This carefully designed entry included puzzles that felt really authentic to an escape room – including morse code and braille, providing a physical, sensory and logical experience of maths.

Carrie, 13 years old and a member of the winning team from Elgin Academy says, “It was a great experience and I cried when I found out we’d won. We developed our teamwork a lot and all became much better friends.”

David Landsman, executive director, Tata Ltd says, “We at Tata wanted to be involved in Maths Mission because we know that maths is vital for almost everything people do across all of our businesses, whether it’s making cars, tea bags, Indian lunches, or steel for buildings. All of our 65,000 employees in the UK use maths everyday at work so it’s important that we instil our young people with an interest in maths and ensure that they have the confidence to explore all the exciting things it can be used for.”

Joysy John, Director for Education at Nesta says, “With Cracking the Code we wanted to show students just what you can achieve if you mix maths with a bit of creativity and collaborative problem-solving. And they did not disappoint! From trying to escape from outer space school to fleeing the effects of global warming, the students really let their imaginations run riot. The world is changing and we will need maths to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the world, especially in a digital age. It’s important to get young people thinking laterally about it now so they realise that maths isn’t just about solving problems for yourself, but can be used to tackle some of the problems we’re all facing together.”

Currently the UK is not as good at maths as it should be. Maths is the foundation of learning and achievement in science, technology and engineering, yet UK teenagers came 27th in the OECD’s most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) international rankings for maths.


For more information contact Juliet Grant in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2668 or 07866 949047, [email protected]

Notes to editors:

About the Maths Mission

Tata, in partnership with Nesta, is running a series of pilot programmes across England to find the most effective ways to increase young people’s interest in maths, and improve their maths and collaborative problem-solving skills. The Maths Mission pilots have been running through the academic year 2017-2018.

The aim is to change attitudes and increase attainment in maths, promoting the subject as a practical and engaging problem-solving tool.

Tata and Nesta are working together to implement the following Maths Mission pilots:

  1. Cracking the Code: an open youth challenge centred around ‘escape-rooms’ aimed at changing student’s perception of maths, through classroom experiences, live events and collaborative group-work;
  2. Solving together: using parental SMS messaging to improve maths problem-solving, working with the Behavioural Insights Team;
  3. Young maths mentors: developing pupil maths and peer mentoring skills in schools, working with both Funkey Maths and Franklin Scholars.

The Maths Mission pilots are focused on nurturing an interest in - and love of - maths and problem-solving outside the formal educational curriculum. Each looks to tackle the issue working with a key group - whether it be parents, students or teachers, and has a strong focus on developing collaborative skills through peer-to-peer activities.

About Nesta

Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833. | @nesta_uk

About Tata group

Having established Tata Limited in 1907 to represent the group in Europe, Tata now has 19 companies operating across the continent, with a combined workforce of over 65,000. These companies include: Jaguar Land Rover; Tata Steel Europe; Tata Motors; Tata Consultancy Services (TCS); Tata Global Beverages (including Tetley Tea); Tata Chemicals and Taj Hotels. European markets with a key Tata presence include; the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands

About Tata Consultancy Services

Tata Consultancy Services is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that delivers real results to global business, ensuring a level of certainty no other firm can match. TCS offers a consulting-led, integrated portfolio of IT, BPS, infrastructure, engineering and assurance services. This is delivered through its unique Global Network Delivery Model™, recognized as the benchmark of excellence in software development.

A part of the Tata group, India’s largest industrial conglomerate, TCS has over 385,000 of the world’s best-trained consultants in 46 countries. The company generated consolidated revenues of US $17.58 billion for year ended March 31, 2017 and is listed on the BSE Limited and National Stock Exchange of India Limited. For more information, visit us at