A real buried treasure lies hidden somewhere under a fruit tree. The first student to solve the riddles and click the map within a two-mile radius of the actual burial spot will win it all. Simple, right? But since this treasure hunt spans the entire globe, it can also seem quite daunting. Before you give up and throw away your shovel, here are ten practical tips to help young adventurers navigate their way through the biggest treasure hunt of the summer:
There are ten animated videos this summer: two for each week of the five-week challenge. Each animation will contain 5-10 hidden clues to the treasure’s whereabouts. These clues can take the form of hidden numbers, letters, pictures, coordinates, flags, timestamps, plot devices, things you see, sounds you hear, and anything else. Some might just be hidden pictures, so that even the very youngest adventurers can participate. The clues can be self-contained, or they can be strung together into elaborate puzzles and riddles. Hints can also pop up on our Facebook page, in the bonus challenges, and other spots outside of the animations. Anything can be a clue, so pay attention!
Review the Instant Replays
You won’t catch all of the clues in the animated episodes the first time through. But don’t worry – you can watch each unlocked video as many times as you like. We met several young 2014 participants who could quote the entire show thanks to repeated viewings! Pause, zoom in, rewind, and even take screenshots to study later. There’s no watch limit.
Take Detailed Notes
A clue book is a must. Write down anything that looks remotely relevant. You can keep a personal notebook, or share a book with your family or friends. Several of last summer’s adventurers actually converted their dining rooms into giant map rooms, spreading out large maps across the table and posting clues, screenshots, and guesses around the walls. However you do it, we strongly recommend keeping some detailed records.
Use It or Lose It
You’re allowed one guess every 24 hours, but these guesses do not accrue over time. So use them! Don’t be afraid of being wrong and wasting a guess – just do the best you can, and then collect your thoughts for a day. Why does the guessing clock reset after 24 hours instead of simply allowing one guess each calendar day? Because Brain Chase participants span many time zones (and continents!), so the countdown approach evens the playing field. Manage your clock, and keep the guesses coming.
Adventure Loves Company
Sure, there’s only one treasure – but don’t look at Brain Chase as an intense competition. We’re all members of the Grayson Academy of Antiquities, so ultimately, we’re all on the same team. Partner up with friends, siblings, fellow participants, and anyone who’s good at solving riddles. Feel free to involve your parents in the adventure, and don’t hesitate to call your grandparents for a lifeline. Yes, you’re committing to doing your own academic work – but the bonus challenges and the treasure hunt are fair game. We absolutely loved how last year’s winning siblings Jack and Grayson made a pact early on, agreeing that if one of them found the treasure, Grayson would keep the globe and Jack would claim the scholarship.
The Right Tools for the Job
Not only is collaboration with other people encouraged, but the use of multiple online and offline resources is recommended as well. Want to search for fruit trees on Google, research Cortés on Wikipedia, or check out a book on orienteering from the local library? Be our guest. Want to build a mathematical model for estimating location probabilities? Do it! Want to equip your entire soccer team with metal detectors and organize a massive search through the orchard? Um, okay – but we’re not liable for anything. Be sure to check with parents before going online, but then try to find the best resources for cracking the puzzle. One hint – we strongly recommend downloading Google Earth and familiarizing yourself with its different features.
History Often Repeats Itself
It might not be a bad idea to study the treasure hunt from last summer. Watch how the Englers solved the puzzle, and notice that there were multiple ways to arrive at the correct solution. You’d be wise to do some research into the inspirations for Brain Chase, and we strongly suggest that you also look carefully at our recent library challenges.
Walk in Our Shoes
If you were us, where would you bury the treasure? Somewhere tropical? Someplace exotic? Somewhere you know well, or someplace you’ve always wanted to go? Would you hide it someplace no one would ever guess? You probably wouldn’t put it in an inhospitable area, like the bottom of the ocean, or someplace dangerous, like the middle of a war zone. The world is a pretty big place, but there might be several areas that you can eliminate altogether. To master this adventure, try thinking like an adventurer.
Get Back on the Horse
Need to take a few weeks off for summer camp? Taking a family vacation without internet access? Moving over the summer? Don’t worry! We promise you’re not the only one. Last year’s winners Jack and Grayson took a couple weeks off from Brain Chase for different adventures and events – but then they logged back on and got caught up with their work. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! You don’t have to be the fastest participant in order to win – you just need to keep moving forward and unlocking clues.
Patience is a Virtue
Think you’ve solved it, only to find another clue that completely destroys your theory? Don’t get frustrated. Some of the clues are entirely self-contained, but others will start to fit together like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. You may not see how they fit together at first, but if you’re patient, you might be the one to crack it later. Odds are, you’ll need to see clues from all ten episodes in order to solve the mystery – so don’t be too discouraged if you haven’t put it all together by the second week.
We hope you have an incredible experience with the hunt for the Sunstone of Cortés this summer. As we watch your guesses pouring in, we like to imagine each of you embarking on your own virtual journey to new places and cultures. We hope this serves as an engaging motivator for staying sharp with core academics while school’s out, and at the same exposes you to some amazing online resources that you can use for years to come. But most of all, we hope this treasure hunt will ignite a love of adventure learning that will last a lifetime.
Co-Founder and CEO