Samantha Porter has been a devoted volunteer since SASSA’s inception. In addition to being active in our program, she is using her research and technological skillset to innovate visitor experiences at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). Her project, Riddle Mia This, blends social needs, art and history, and technology, and offers an excellent example of SASSA’s values in action and the type of research we encourage our students to pursue. Read our brief interview with Ms. Porter to learn more about this exciting and innovative project!
How did you come up with the idea for the Riddle Mia This app?
Myself and my colleague, Colin McFadden, heard that there was an award available at the MIA to develop a project related to art and technology. Since we work with technology in a liberal arts setting, it seemed like a great fit for us. Right before we heard about the award, we’d both been getting into escape rooms. These are experiences where you and your friends explore a room, usually with some sort of theme (detectives, aliens, the wild west, etc.) and have one hour to solve puzzles. There is a story related to the theme that drives the puzzles. For example, you may have to follow a series of clues to find a secret potion before an evil wizard finds it first. Not only did we find these to be fun, we saw potential in the format as a learning tool.
Tell us about Riddle Mia This.
When you open Riddle Mia This, the first thing that happens is you receive a message from Kaywin, the director of the museum. Devious people have placed a device in the museum that will destroy all technology unless you can stop them! You will need to investigate works of art in the museum and follow a trail of clues in order to find the disruption device. Some clues use augmented reality (AR) to help you find your way. For example, pointing your phone camera at certain paintings may reveal hidden messages.
How does the app appeal to kids as well as adults?
We think Riddle Mia This is appealing for a few reasons. Above all, it gives you permission to experience the museum in a new way. You’re there above all to have fun. If you happen to learn something, that’s great! But learning is not the main mission. It also may lead you to works of art or parts of the museum you haven’t seen before. Since some of the logic puzzles can be a bit challenging, initially we aimed the app at folks 12 and up, but we’ve found younger kids have also enjoyed it when working with older kids or adults. We’ve included a hint system so users can get help or even the correct answer if they get stuck. We’ve also hidden some AR easter eggs around the museums, so visitors can help find clues, even if word puzzles aren’t their thing.
Tell us about the success of the app.
So far, the app has been downloaded over 3,600 times and has been played through at least 1,600 times. Since most visitors have played in groups, the actual number of people to experience the app is probably much higher. We think this is pretty successful! We also have heard that groups are using the app as an office team building exercise, and a few schools have even brought students on field trips to play. This article from Minnesota Monthly sums things up pretty well.
Thank you, Samantha! Congratulations—this is a very exciting project! Learn more about Samantha and her research on her SASSA volunteer page.