The making of Treasure Hunt


20 Teams register. Some calculations showed we’ll be able to manage 15 of them. Elimination Round was all we needed to filter the teams out. First Day of Treasure Hunt and huge response! People were really excited about the first of it’s kind activity being held at the college. On stake were one thousand bucks.

What kind of questions for the Elimination Round of a ‘Treasure Hunt’ thats supposed to be a ‘IT (Information Technology) Event’? Some of my previous experience, got me to put anagrams on the quiz sheet. The dictionary defines the anagrams as a word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain. That’s got something to do with cryptography. One reason the event was being organized by the IT Cell and was deemed a “Technical Treasure Hunt”.

Looking for more information on cryptography? Here wikipedia has lot’s of it.

Everything goes fine. People just love solving the anagrams, and the list cuts to just 15 teams.

But here we have the Challenge # 1. Finalizing a date for the finals. No classes can be cancelled, and people won’t like to stay for too long after 4. What do we do? More over there are Lab Viva’s and tests in between. Then there is the Second Test that’s coming up. But finally we get a date. One day 2 hours. Shouldn’t that be enough. Wait I didn’t tell you what  exactly had to be done?

The contestants have to decode clues. Clues that point to a location in the campus. Reach that location and answer another question and also complete a task. An IT Task. Yes, something like programming.

That brings me to Challenge #2. Since this event was being organized by the IT Cell, it had to be related to IT. Rs. 1000 won’t come easy.  Preparing the C questions was actually not a challenge. But  convincing people was. But thanks to the co-operative friends, there were no revolts on the inclusion of the easy programs.

Seemed all set. The clues were ready a month before. The treasure hunt team held several meetings and brainstorming sessions of how we could prevent people using unfair means. How could the system be fool-proof. But how were we going to communicate the clues? We thought that we’d SMS the clues. SMS the clues through mobile phones? No. Through the internet ( Sounded cool.  Messages being sent through internet, and received on the phone. People had to communicate with us, through the mobile phone.  All ready for the final day…

Managing the Teams. Challenge #3. As I just mentioned, all just “seemed” perfect. Did you think 15 teams was too much for a small campus? If yes, you were right. These 15 teams weren’t the school teams I had seen and organized events with at computer symposiums. These were a team of first year college students. Let me tell you these were actually 15*2 = 30 people in all. Okay now picture this. 30 people , right before me, “excited and enthusiastic”. An un-explainable situation.  The Treasure hunt was being organized really professionally. We had the control room. The computer room actually, which was locked for the participants.

System Failure. Challenge #4. Cool ideas are cool enough only when they work. The much talked about messaging system failed just at the right time. How do we send the messages now? No problems, we had people with message packs on some qwerty keyboard phones. So now the mobiles took over. By the time we couldn’t even message everybody,  we started getting replies. Replies giving answers, asking for hints. And there were people constantly banging at the door who hadn’t yet received the message! We had the message packs and so did the participants. So these were not single messages from a team, it was multiple messages.

Tension Inside. Fun Outside. Challenge #5. As all this happened, we were falling short of time. As things were going out of control inside the control room, everybody started to panic. So we decided to call the teams one by one inside our secretive room  to give clues and “settle scores”! Meanwhile, people were having enormous fun outside. There was full on cheating (though it drowned some teams), the clues were a fun to solve , there was running around, all for the first time ever on a usually boring college day. So it was indirectly a successful day for us. Though now we needed another day to continue, with the treasure hunt.  And luckily we managed to get this quickly. We now had just 10 teams competing for the final spot.

Success Finally. We learned from our mistakes. We abolished the messaging system. Every round now became an elimination round. After the first round we eliminated 2 teams and thereafter eliminated half of the total teams every round.  From 8 to 4, 4 to2 and finally the winners. How did we do that?  The order of the events changed to:

1. Find a output to a C program.

2. Whoever finishes first gets a location clue, and runs to the location and take the picture.

3. Teams that return back first, get selected. For rounds where half of the teams were eliminated, we introduced competition between 2  teams by giving the same clues.

Here’s what the winners Tarun and Anuraag had to say (text in pic below):

Winners Word Winner's Word

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Annexure A. The treasure hunt clues and solutions.

Annexure B. The Elimination Round

P.S. You may use the clues and questions for your own treasure hunt. Don’t forget to see the licence details on your right though!

Special Thanks to the Treasure Hunt Team. Puneet, Abhikul, Vaibhav, Ashutosh, Nikhil and Tushar. (Random Order)
And to my friend from the times of school, Mridul for troubleshooting and new ideas.