Mr Ramu Vairavan
We know you know the Rubik’s Cube, but have you heard of the Soma Cube, the Snake Cube, or the Dovetail Cube? These are just a few examples from the mighty large world of mechanical puzzles – puzzles that have to be manipulated physically in some way to be solved.
This puzzle world is both intricate and expansive. Each of the cubes above, for example, belongs to different families. The Soma Cube is a classic put-together puzzle and a 3D shape dissection puzzle. The Snake Cube is a twisty puzzle that’s also a shape assembly puzzle. The Dovetail Cube is a take-apart puzzle that also counts as an impossible object.
There are in fact thousands more brain teasers out there like these, each one an enigma. A handful, including the Tangram, Tower of Hanoi, and 15 Puzzle, are widely known, but most others remain largely unknown.
Project Enigma aims to shine light on such hidden gems and bring them closer to people. Our goal is to increase awareness about, accessibility to, and affordability of these puzzles in Singapore. To that end, we curate puzzles from around the world and promote them to various local audiences through a multi-pronged approach.
Why do we do this? We strongly believe that handheld puzzles would help people of all ages and backgrounds reduce their screen time, keep their minds sharp and active, and bond with their family and friends, among other benefits. We feel that all these have become even more important during this pandemic. We see an increased need to engage in activities that can help improve our mental and cognitive health and well-being.
To date, about 200 individuals have benefitted from playing with our puzzles. This includes families with children below 10, seniors above 60, people with memory problems, and also people with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and OCD.
We have engaged them all through different means: monthly rental subscriptions (SparkBox), group puzzle workshops and sessions (EnigmaClass), or simply an evening of puzzling at our library (PuzzleWorld). We have sourced from more than 10 countries 4000 puzzles, out of which about 1200 are unique. They span more than 30 different subcategories of mechanical puzzles.
The 52 visitors to our library have spent more than 82 hours interacting with our collection. Moreover, 28 customers have been delivered SparkBoxes to date.
These numbers will continue to grow, as Project Enigma will be carried forward as a social enterprise. Besides upcoming plans to design puzzles from scratch, to set up an e-commerce platform for puzzles, and to open an edutainment centre in future, the team is gearing up to launch a community initiative called Puzzle Quest in Bedok North and Tanjong Pagar in partnership with THK Moral Society.
The Enigma team recognises that play is universal, just like music and stories are. We want to play a part in bettering our people’s lives through play. We have several hopes for the future: we
wish to see more people off screen, interacting with real people and our physical world. We would like our younger generation to become better problem solvers and creative thinkers. We would like our older generation to keep their minds and hands more active and stave off dementia and loneliness. We would like families, friends and people of different backgrounds to bond over the enigmas we offer.
We hope one day puzzling can become our national intellectual pastime, and that it can become as mainstream as reading or running.
Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you identify with our mission and would like to join us on it.
Members who contributed to the execution of Project Enigma (including 3 interns and 3 NSFs):
● Vairavan Ramanathan (Ramu) (NUS Alum)
● Ashwin Kumaar Raviraj (NUS Alum)
● DS Vickram (NUS Alum)
● Ang Khar Tsin (NUS Alum)
● Ganesh Muthupalani (NUS Alum)
● Toby Seah (NUS Alum)
● Sharon Tan (NUS Student)
● Henry Goh (NUS Student)
● Dean Su (NUS Student)
● Zhu Shiyao (NUS Student)
● Karthik Raj
● Sri Krishna
● Abdul Aziz
● Daniel Tan
● T Kalai
● RM Vairavan
● Mr Jerry Loo
● Prof Sow Chorng Haur