Hack Your Brain: Free Online Science Escape Room For Kids

Unlock kids’ brain power with a free online neuroscience escape room, exciting puzzles, hands-on experiments, and live expert Q&As.

A young scientist is a labcoat tinkers with a robot in a lab. Around them are puzzles, tools, VR goggles, neuroscience equipment including a giant brain.
Credit: Joy Ho

Ever wonder what goes on inside your head? Now’s your chance to delve deep into the workings of the brain and discover its secrets. Because understanding your mind isn’t just interesting—it’s the key to a happier, healthier life!

This Spring, Science Friday, in partnership with the Dana Foundation, is launching a new FREE program to unlock your brain’s secrets!

Custom-designed for the curious and adventurous spirits of middle-schoolers, Hack Your Brain is an anywhere, anytime program for everyone, regardless of prior knowledge of neuroscience. With our online program, you get to chart your own path to discovery—on your own schedule, in your own way, wherever you want.

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Starting April 15, 2024, prepare to be swept away into a world of discovery as you unlock the mysteries of the mind in the Hack Your Brain online escape room adventure! With each day, a new chapter unfolds, packed with hands-on investigations and brain-teasing challenges. Immerse yourself in the captivating story of a young scientist and robot, paired with thought-provoking educational resources that will expand your understanding of neuroscience in an engaging and interactive way.

Below is a description of what you’ll learn through Hack Your Brain activities. You can also download the Hack Your Brain booklet in English or Spanish, print a one-page planner in English or Spanish, or sign up for the Hack Your Brain newsletter to receive a daily email with all the fun. If you get stuck, there are hints and solutions available in English and Spanish.

A young scientist uses tools to work on a robot's brain while it reads a story book.

🧠 A Robot’s Story: Teaching Clipbot About The Human Brain
Embark on a journey with a young scientist and their curious robot as they explore the brain through exciting challenges and puzzles.

🧠 La historia de un robot: enseñando a Clipbot sobre el cerebro humano
Embárcate en un viaje interactivo con un joven científico y su curioso robot mientras exploran el cerebro a través de emocionantes desafíos y rompecabezas.

In English     En español

A young person sweats as they jump rope while a happy robot dances to music.

💪 Discover How Your Brain Builds Muscle Memory
Investigate the brain’s ability to coordinate movement, develop motor skills, and create muscle memories. Materials needed: a jump rope (or equivalent), printable grid and cards (download included), paperclips (optional).

💪 Descubre cómo tu cerebro fomenta la memoria muscular
Descubre cómo tu cerebro te ayuda a mover tu cuerpo y descubre cómo puedes ejercitar tu memoria muscular. Materiales: un lazo (o equivalente), cuadrícula y cartas, clips de sobra (opcional).

In English     En español

A young scientist sits next to a robot as they meditate and listen to music.

😨 Train Your Brain To Manage Stress
Discover brain-based approaches to develop resilience, manage stress, and cultivate a positive mindset. Materials needed: a set of Jacks (or equivalent), printable cards (download included), either red film or a mirror.

😨 Entrena tu cerebro a manejar el estrés
Con unas pocas y sencillas técnicas, puedes poner al estrés en buen uso y reducir sus efectos perjudiciales. Materiales: un conjunto de “jacks” (o equivalente), cartas, y película roja o el espejo.

In English     En español

A young scientist motions toward a white board filled with complex information as a confused robot watches.

💤 Boost Memory And Learning With The Science Of Sleep
Discover how getting enough quality sleep is essential for transforming new knowledge into lasting memories. Materials needed: a dry kitchen sponge, a measuring cup, water, printable puzzle (download included).

💤 Impulsa tu memoria y aprendizaje con la ciencia de dormir
Descubre cómo tener suficiente sueño de calidad es esencial para transformar el nuevo conocimiento en recuerdos duraderos. Materiales: una esponja completamente seca, una taza medidora, agua, y rompecabezas.

In English     En español

A young scientist thinks of an image of the brain while the robot tries to draw a picture of a brain.

🐿️ Think Like A Squirrel: Nature’s Spatial Memory Expert
Discover how observing animals’ remarkable memory abilities can teach you about spatial memory and the brain’s incredible adaptability. Materials needed: copy paper, pens, pencils or markers, printable maze (download included), two small magnets.

🐿️ Piensa como una ardilla: la experta de memoria espacial de la naturaleza
Descubre cómo observar las notables habilidades de los animales puede enseñarte acerca de la memoria espacial y la increíble adaptabilidad del cerebro. Materiales: papel, marcadores, laberinto, dos imanes.

In English     En español

A young scientist drops their phone, and a robot reaches to catch it.

🎯 Hack Your Brain To Increase Focus And Attention
Explore mindfulness techniques that will sharpen your focus, improve your attention span, and enhance your ability to concentrate. Materials needed: ruler, previous puzzles.

🎯 Hackea tu cerebro para incrementar el enfoque y la atención
Explora las técnicas de mindfulness agudizarán tu concentración, aumentarán tus periodos de atención y mejorarán tu habilidad para concentrarte. Materials: una regla, rompecabezas anteriores.

In English     En español

Also, just for fun, grab the Hack Your Brain coloring page and your favorite colored pencils, and relax while imagining yourself in the lab. Or challenge yourself with a neuroscience-themed crossword!

These educational resources are tailor-made for learners aged 10-14 but can be adapted as needed to different ages. Designed to captivate young minds, each resource features a quick 15-minute hands-on activity alongside brain-teasing puzzles. Extend the learning experience with supplementary videos and background information. Plus, for educators, we’ve crafted presentations for seamless classroom integration, complemented by quiz questions, and aligned with NGSS MS-LS1-8: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes standards. Planning now? Read the Hack Your Brain Facilitator’s Guide.

Got questions? Need disability or language accommodations? Send us an email at educate@sciencefriday.com.

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A cheery cartoon-style brain smiles and holds a magnifying glass. The text reads Hack Your Brain Fun For Everyone STEM Nights
Credit: Sandy Roberts in Canva

Hack Your Brain Live Online Events

Join Science Friday for fun events with scientists and researchers as we explore the science of the brain—together!

🔍 Hack Your Brain: You’re the Scientist!
Thursday, April 25, 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT
Dive into the thrilling world of neuroscience with our upcoming webinar with SciStarter and Citizen Science Month! Join groundbreaking projects like Neureka, where you can play games and share your feelings to understand mental health evolution, and the Online Memory Training Study, where you’ll engage in memory-boosting exercises and cognitive tests from home. Be a part of cutting-edge research and uncover the mysteries of the brain. Sign up now and contribute to exciting scientific discoveries! RSVP for April 25.

Weekly Fun For Everyone STEM Nights

Prepare for an exhilarating exploration as you delve into the mysteries of your mind! Join us each week for 45-minute online events via Zoom packed with laughter, learning, and plenty of brain-boosting fun for all ages! Each of these STEM nights is its own adventure—pick one or two, or come to all six; it’s up to you! RSVP now and embark on a journey to unleash your mind’s full potential.

👀 Hack Your Brain: Pay Attention
Monday, April 15, 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT
How observant are you? Sharpen your senses and fine-tune your attention to detail as you explore the fascinating world of human perception. Join us and discover what you may be missing! Featuring special guest Dr. Cheryl Olman, a Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Minnesota. Watch the recording. | Try the trivia.| Download the Presentation

💡 Hack Your Brain: No Problem
Monday, April 1, 4 pm ET / 1 pm PT
Are you a master problem solver? Discover how your mind helps you adapt to changes and overcome obstacles. Plus, put your skills to the test as you tackle challenges with the help of your clever brain. Featuring special guest Dr. Nicola Grissom, an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Minnesota. Watch the recording. | Try the trivia.| Download the Presentation

🧐 Hack Your Brain: Making Memories
Monday, March 25, 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT
Put your memory to the test with mind-bending games and puzzles! See just how powerful your brain truly is as you sharpen your recall skills and uncover the secrets of memory formation. How good is your memory? Let’s find out! Featuring special guest Dr. Rae Nishi former Director of the Neuroscience, Behavior, and Health Transdisciplinary Research Initiative at the University of Vermont and member of the Public Education and Communication Committee of the Society for Neuroscience. Watch the recording. | Try the trivia.| Download the Presentation

Hack Your Brain: Under Pressure
Monday, March 18, 4 pm ET / 1 pm PT
Feeling stressed? Don’t worry! Dive into the science behind stress and learn effective coping strategies to conquer any challenge. Whether it’s a big game, your first performance, or an important test, unlock the secrets to keeping calm under pressure. Featuring special guest Dr. Ramesh Raghupathi, Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine. Watch the recording. | Try the trivia. | Download the Presentation

🏃 Hack Your Brain: Move It
Monday, March 11, 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT
Lace-up your sneakers and get ready to move! Explore the incredible connection between your brain and body as you tackle exciting—and somewhat silly—physical challenges. From dancing to running, discover how your brain powers every move you make! Featuring special guest Rebecca McCune, a neuroscientist at Baruch College’s Dynamic Learning Lab and clinical research coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Watch the recording. | Try the trivia.| Download the Presentation

Don’t let the discovery and learning stop at the end if the event. Join the Hack Your Brain community to discuss what you’ve learned or ask questions. It’s free!

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What To Expect When You Participate

Here’s what you’ll enjoy as part of the Hack Your Brain experience:

  • Five-Day Escape Room Adventure: Unleash your problem-solving skills with thrilling puzzles you can tackle from the comfort of your home or anywhere else! Starts April 15th!
  • Digital Educational Activities: Dive into the world of neuroscience with easy-to-understand materials and engaging experiments. Available in both English and Spanish, starting April 15th.
  • Fun Online Events For Everyone: Join us for interactive sessions filled with brainy trivia, hands-on activities, and the chance to interact with real-life neuroscientists! Weekly on Mondays, beginning March 11.
  • Hack Your Brain Newsletter: Receive a special newsletter with a family-friendly storyline, discussion questions, secret hints, and additional activities to enhance your escape room adventure.
  • Secure Online Community: Connect with fellow brainiacs to ask questions, share ideas, and forge new friendships in a supportive, family-friendly online environment. This is the perfect place for caregivers, facilitators, and educators to come together as a community.

Register now and get ready to Hack Your Brain!

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Got questions? Need disability or language accommodations? Send us an email at educate@sciencefriday.com.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect from Hack Your Brain?
Science Friday’s Hack Your Brain will kick off on Monday, March 11, 202, with Brain Awareness Week. After you register, you’ll be added to a special email newsletter. That will keep you updated on everything happening in the program.

You’ll be invited to a weekly online Fun For Everyone STEM Night that will feature brain trivia, hands-on activities, and a guest expert who will answer questions for our budding scientists. The events will be recorded and shared with registered participants. The trivia and activities will also be shared so you can recreate the experience on your own!

In addition, you’ll receive an invite to join our Hack Your Brain Community on Mighty Networks. There, you can ask questions, share ideas, and meet others. Need help with a puzzle? This is the place for you.

The escape room will officially open on April 15th. From April 15-19, you’ll receive a daily email with a new piece of the story and a puzzle to solve. Complete each puzzle to collect the secret codes. At the end of the week, if you beat the escape room, you’ll receive a fabulous prize* (and bragging rights)!

Can’t complete all the challenges by April 19? That’s okay. All the materials will be provided online, so you can do them at any time.

* While supplies last.

Who is this for?
All kids in the United States* and their brain-loving caregivers are welcome to join us as we explore the mysteries of the brain. Activities were designed with middle-school aged students (ages 10-14) in mind. Not a neuroscience expert? No problem! We’ll provide a special newsletter, detailed project guides, a secure online community, and the opportunity to connect with real scientists to help make it easy to participate.

Got a group? Great! Clubs, scouts, after-school programs, libraries, museums, homeschool co-ops, and other community organizations are welcome to join the fun. Hack Your Brain activities can also be used in the classroom. Assessment materials will be included.

* You are welcome to register and participate if you are outside the U.S. However, online events are planned to align with the time zones in the U.S. and will not be repeated at other times.

How much time does it take?
The weekly Fun For Everyone STEM Night events will last 45 minutes each. The escape room puzzles should each take approximately 15 minutes each day to complete, but this will vary based on the age of the participants and how familiar you are with escape rooms and puzzles. The optional additional hands-on activities included with each puzzle will also take about 15 minutes each day. There will also be extension activities, additional resources, and even book suggestions if you want to deepen your learning.

How much does it cost?
Hack Your Brain is totally free. Most of the materials for the activities are easy to find around the house or at the local hardware store. All the puzzles can be printed at home or your local library. The cost of supplies for the average family should be under $20. The cost for a group of approximately 25 should be under $100.

How can I get a free kit?
NOTE: Free kits have been distributed for the April 2024 Hack Your Brain program. There are no additional kits available at this time.

Science Friday will offer free materials kits to a limited number of families and groups with financial constraints. To request a kit, you can indicate your interest when you complete the Hack Your Brain registration form and provide the requested demographic information.

  • Please note that, depending on the number of registrations, we may not be able to provide a kit for everyone who requests one.
  • A kit is not required to participate in the Hack Your Brain program. All written resources will be provided online. The materials needed to complete the activities are relatively easy to find and inexpensive.
  • The free kits should arrive in mid-April. They will include all the printed educational materials and the supplies needed to complete the Hack Your Brain puzzles.

A limited number of kits will be available for sale on the Science Friday website. Additional details will be coming soon.

Please note kits cannot be shipped outside the continental United States.

How do I participate?
To register for Hack Your Brain, simply fill out a short form. It should take 3 minutes or less. Also, be sure to bookmark sciencefriday.com/hackyourbrain and visit regularly for updates.

Why neuroscience?
Neuroscience is the science of the nervous system, including the brain. The study of neuroscience encompasses what humans think, feel, and experience. Understanding neuroscience provides a path to improving people’s lives and building a better future that benefits us all.

What if I have more questions?
Please email educate@sciencefriday.com with the subject line “SciFri Hack Your Brain.” For updates on registration, we suggest you subscribe to our Science Friday Beyond the Classroom Newsletter and join the STEM Educator’s Lounge on Facebook.

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Dana Foundation Logo

Special thanks to the Dana Foundation for funding Hack Your Brain.

The Hack Your Brain team includes Sandy Roberts, Svea Anderson, Lucas Leprince, Daisy Reyes, Sheeva Azma, Jordan Smoczyk, Ariel Zych, Lois Parshley, Joy Ho, Fai Kosciolek, Cuentero Productions, Santiago Florez, Robin Kazmier, Teak & Twine, and the amazing brains at the Science Friday Initiative.

Meet the Writers

About Sandy Roberts

Sandy Roberts is Science Friday’s Education Program Manager, where she creates learning resources and experiences to advance STEM equity in all learning environments. Lately, she’s been playing with origami circuits and trying to perfect a gluten-free sourdough recipe.

About Svea Anderson

Svea Anderson is a twenty-year veteran educator who never hesitates to step out of her comfort zone and try something new. She enjoys a challenge and never passes up an opportunity to learn something new.

About Daisy Reyes

Daisy Reyes is a Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience PhD student at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).

About Lucas Leprince

Lucas Leprince is a game designer who enjoys creating unique moments of realization and challenge.

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