After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the U.S. Air Force to sideline ITS mobile tours and suspend its outreach partnerships, we were tasked with finding a new, creative way to engage with potential recruits.

So we took advantage of a nation-wide resurgence in jigsaw puzzles by creating not just another puzzle, but the largest online jigsaw puzzle in the world. Named the “Million Piece Mission,” it featured a giant, 1.03 gigapixel image of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force broken up into 1.2-million puzzle pieces. Users were free to play alone or invite friends and family to help them on a particular section. They could even earn points based on the number and difficulty of pieces they assembled. And when they weren’t having fun putting the puzzle together, players could explore the museum itself by unlocking hundreds of pieces of content about the Air Force. Over the course of 18 days, 16 hours and 55 minutes, more than 31,000 players averaged an incredible 12:05 minutes on the site solving the puzzle—and they had fun doing it. Amidst the press coverage and social feedback, the puzzle received a 97.4% positivity rate. Oh, and while we were at it, we also set a world record for the largest online puzzle. So while the Air Force’s recruiting efforts—like much of America—were paused during the pandemic, we were still able to help them connect to the 18- to 34-year-old, problem-solving demographic that they look for in potential recruits.