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ThinkFun’s President & Co-Founder Bill Ritchie on 21st century thinking and gameplay
Updated: 32 min 33 sec ago

7-year-olds Are Building The Future: Maker Studio

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 18:14

The future has arrived, and kids like 7-year-old Bella are building it.

Just this week, ThinkFun launched its first video trailer on social media. Taking advantage of modern tools to deliver content like this is the future and we hope launching Bella’s video helps us to inspire a whole new generation of modern makers and STEM enthusiasts.

In our very first video, Bella uses her Maker Studio Gear Building Kit to yank a loose tooth right out of her own mouth! Her inspiring enthusiasm makes you laugh and her engineering success encourages viewers to learn more. It’s all part of an ongoing narrative we’re fostering that revolves around Maker Studio and the STEM exploration these kits inspire.

Bella—Maker Studio’s creative correspondent—has a whole series of videos on her channel, Made by Bella. You can watch her entire tooth pull experiment or check out her other experiments, such as this, her first contribution:

Maker Studio is a collection of three open-ended construction kits. These are different kinds of toys — ones that challenge kids to impress their personal stamp of creativity directly onto the experience of play. The fun of Maker Studio is in creating your own funky machine and sharing your own creative solutions. Social media content like Bella’s simply celebrates that as it happens.

And Bella isn’t our only creative correspondent. Within days of inviting families to try out Maker Studio kits we were rewarded with a power shot of creativity. Take a look at these pictures:

Taking things one step further, we’re working to organize a Maker Parade Online Tournament Pageant this fall. Picture a Rose Bowl Parade crossed with a Burning Man art car celebration of STEM exploration.

Watch this space for more news, more videos, and more fun in the making.

Rush Hour Shift is Here!

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 15:54

Great news! We’ve just launched Rush Hour Shift, a 2 player version of our iconic Rush Hour Traffic Jam puzzle. We’ve been looking for this for nearly 20 years now, finally found something worthy of the Rush Hour name.

With Rush Hour Shift, each player has their own Escape Car, and you draw cards that tell you how to move. What makes it exciting is that the playing grid can shift from side by side, so you get to play the board as well as move the cars and trucks.

Rush Hour Shift makes me nostalgic about the original game. Rush Hour was invented by Nob Yoshigahara, a crazy genius and a good friend. Nob and his NOBrain Corp created Rush Hour, I made sure that the Escape Car was red and had tailfins, and the rest is history.

Nob showed us two ideas in 1995 … the second one became Stormy Seas, a Rush Hour-like puzzle with a playing grid that also shifted. We made a bizarre packaging choice with Stormy Seas so it didn’t do terribly well … but it was a great puzzle.

Rush Hour Shift captures the best of Rush Hour and Stormy Seas. That’s what makes Rush Hour Shift worthy to me.

Introducing Maker Studio Construction Sets

Wed, 03/11/2015 - 14:42

Maker Studio Construction Sets: Igniting Budding Engineers

We’ve got some great new ThinkFun products and programs arriving this Spring 2015. I’m proud of them and I want to take the opportunity to describe them to you. The first one I’ll describe is our new Maker Studio Construction Sets.

Our Goals Going In

We usually seek out products that build on our mission to ignite minds and give kids an early advantage. In this case, we wanted to do several things.

  1. Stimulate interest in engineering and creativity
  2. Make a product that was open-ended—not just one-and-done building
  3. Add challenges on top of the builds—ask kids to make their contraption actually accomplish a task

For the Maker Studio sets, we teamed up with two awesome inventors, David Yakos and Parker Thomas; both of them are active in the Maker movement. In fact, on our YouTube Channel, we feature David’s “Pitch Video” to us because the vision was so clear and aligned.

What Is Maker Studio?

Each Maker Studio set consists of a set of parts and instructions for how to build machines using discarded household items like food boxes and plastic bottles. The parts are magical—they are a collection of wheels, gears, axles, connectors, rubber band motor and instructions that show players how to build four machines.. Step 1 is to make household items into moving contraptions. But there’s much more to it. You can create many things with the parts in each set by using different containers and different decorations. The real beauty of Maker Studio is the fact that it has challenges to make your project do something. Push an apple across a table. Lift a soup can from the floor. That’s why we all it Open-Ended.

Made by Bella – Maker Studio Gears Set – Cable Car Challenge

It Would Have Flopped!

It’s funny… just a few years ago these products would certainly have flopped. How do you explain something that is “open-ended” on a store shelf?

But in a world of YouTube channels and social media, we have a whole new opportunity to present the Maker Studio imagination by showcasing the cool stuff that kids are already making, then inviting our audience to join in themselves and share their own designs and builds.

And to prove our point, we’d like to introduce Bella Yakos and her YouTube Channel, Made By Bella. Bella is the 7yo daughter of one of the inventors. Take a look at some of Bella’s videos, and you’ll see why we think Maker Studio sets are going to set brains on fire!

This is new territory for us, we’re excited! We are seeing great interest from the Maker movement, STEM and STEAM advocates, and Girls in Engineering programs. It’s the beginning of a whole new category of products for us, products that let the players tell the story.

Here’s hoping that it works! I’ll keep you updated along the way.

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