Category Archives: Organizations supporting play

Community in Action: KaBOOM! Playground Build

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a new playground built in our local DC community… in under 6 HOURS!

I have long admired the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! and their commitment to improving communities by building safe play spaces, so I was thrilled when ThinkFun began exploring ways to bring more fun and games to their site builds! Over the summer, our team worked with KaBOOM! to develop several large-scale thinking games to engage kids (and keep eager footprints off the freshly-poured concrete!) as their new playgrounds were built. These giant games have been part of several playground builds all over the country, and I was thrilled to finally have a local event to attend and see them in action.

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Watching the playground take shape was a powerful experience. Fueled by the beat of an on-site DJ, energetic dance breaks, and visits from Wizards and Capitals players, cheerleaders, and mascots, the community came together to bring PLAY to these excited students at Eagle Academy Public Charter School. Here are some highlights from this amazing event:

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These first, second, and third graders had a blast with ThinkFun’s Human Hoppers challenge! Check out their problem solving powers in action!

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ThinkFun Sponsors Design for Change Prize

The following guest post is shared by Sanjli Gidwaney, the Country Coordinator for the incredible Design for Change USA organization!

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The Design for Change USA (DFC USA) team is pleased to announce the students of Crazy Horse School from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, as the winners of DFC USA 2013! Their winning entry, Combating High Dropout Rates, has inspired people around the world. The students have received $500 worth of ThinkFun games, in recognition of their efforts!

The natural partnership between DFC and Think Fun is rooted in the belief that children learn best when they’re having fun. It is through critical thinking and team building skills learned during games and real world problem solving, which enable students to become better leaders and change makers of the future. DFC is incredibly thankful for the support of ThinkFun, and we are so excited that our student winners will benefit from $500 worth of ThinkFun games this year!

DFC kids ThinkFun Sponsors Design for Change Prize

2013 Design for Change USA Winning Team!

To learn more about Design for Change and the winning team, keep reading!

Design for Change is the largest global movement designed to give young people an opportunity to express their own ideas for a better world and to put them into action. Design for Change is a framework of design thinking principles such as Feel, Imagine, Do, Share, with supporting templates, exercises and a robust curriculum designed by Stanford Design School, IDEO, and Harvard’s Good Work Team. This year, Design for Change (DFC) reaches 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of youth, teachers, parents, and educators around the world.

How did the winning students impact their community?
The Lakota reservation in South Dakota faces a number of challenges including a limited number of healthy activities available for youth, 90% unemployment rate, a feeling of hopelessness and frequent substance abuse, and many students dropout before high school graduation.  In an effort to address this challenge, the students of Crazy Horse School used the DFC framework to host a community event, centered on activities such as sports tournaments, talent shows, a community dinner, and Lakota beading and quillwork.  In doing so, they believe they can restore a new sense of hope on the reservation, bringing the community together to discuss important issues.  They will use this event to show their classmates, how to replace unhealthy youth pastimes with exciting and fun activities in hopes of keeping them on track to graduate.

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How can I help?
The DFC USA team is raising funds to send three students and two teachers from the Crazy Horse School, to the ‘Be the Change’ Conference in India in September 2013.  To learn more, visit: designforchange.us/donate. Please help us spread the word!

Learn more about the DFC movement by checking out dfcworld.com

Move over Willy Wonka… GIANT Chocolate Fix at Math Plus Academy

Our friends at Math Plus Academy, an academic enrichment program with 2 locations in Ohio, recently took their love of ThinkFun’s Chocolate Fix game to a pretty sweet new level. Madison Corna, a Director at one of the centers, shares their experience and some great photos of GIANT Chocolate Fix in action!

We became inspired to create Life-size Chocolate Fix after playing Human Rush Hour. (We thought Life-size Tip Over might be a little dangerous!).  Anything that gets the students up and moving around is great because it causes them to be even more engaged with the problem solving process.  Students LOVE this huge life size version of the game!

We always set it up in a tournament style with three or four rounds and the team who solves the challenges fastest wins! There are few things in the world that are more rewarding that seeing a child get excited about math and problem solving.

The first two (in the gym) are from an event at a local elementary school that we did called Think Tank.

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The photos below are from a STEM event for girls that we do called IGNITE (Igniting Girls’ Natural Inquisitiveness in Technology & Engineering).

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We love seeing these big thinkers in action! Have you ever tried magnifying a favorite game?!

 

 

 

ThinkFun Plays at the Boy Scout Jamboree

This month, ThinkFun was pleased to participate in the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia at the beautiful Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.  Our Head of Inventor Relations Tanya Thompson joined in the fun as part of the Mind Trekkers team and shares a fun recap of the week!

 

Mind Trekkers is an outreach organization for Michigan Tech, and their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-focused  booth was part of a larger section of the Jamboree called “The Cloud” or “Technology Quest.”

Scouts from all over the country had fun challenging their minds with our Life-Size Hoppers Brain game!  Using our Hoppers Construction Kit, Mind Trekkers taped out a large Hoppers grid on a tarp and displayed multiple challenges.  Scouts became the frogs and hopped their way to victory.

One thing was evident, Scouts enjoyed our puzzles!

Giant Rush Hour featured in a new Museum of Play exhibit!

We are so excited to celebrate the grand opening of a new exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play!  The permanent Game Time exhibit, which opened April 13th, features 4,200 square feet of interactive PLAY experiences for the whole family! 

Featured among the fantastic game experiences is ThinkFun’s Rush Hour – as you’ve never seen it before!

SMP GT 2098 Giant Rush Hour featured in a new Museum of Play exhibit!

I love the way this cleverly-designed exhibit encourages the whole family to engage in game play together – particularly wonderful with a game like Rush Hour that is typically played solo.

An exhibit designer at The Strong shared some additional photos of this installation before it opened. Rush Hour seems very comfortable in the limelight, we think she has never looked so lovely!

More on the Game Time exhibit from the Strong’s website:

Your turn! Move like a piece on a giant game board through three centuries of American games, puzzles, and public amusements at Game Time! an original permanent exhibit on the second floor of the National Museum of Play® at The Strong. Feast your eyes on oversized toy props, see rare historic treasures from The Strong’s game and puzzle collections, and jump right in for active hands-on family fun.

The Strong is located in Rochester, NY – if you live in the area or are planning a trip soon, I encourage you to check out the fun. Personally, I think a road trip is in order!

FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in Action

logo FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionFIRST Robotics is an amazing organization, founded  in 1989 with a mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.

Founder Dean Kamen articulates his vision for FIRST, “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

For years, ThinkFun’s CEO Bill Ritchie has participated as a guest judge – here’s a fun video he shared of a tournament in action! Recently, ThinkFun was thrilled to support the brilliant local teens of Herndon High School’s FIRST Robotics Team. This team recently wrapped up an amazing season, and their coach shared the following update – enjoy!

 

This past weekend Herndon Robotics participated in the DC Regional FIRST robotics competition!  When we went to Raleigh 2 weeks before, we finished 49th out of 54.  In DC, my team ended up 2nd out of 59!  The finals are best 2 out of 3 matches and we crushed the other alliance in the quarter finals; had a super intense semi-finals where we lost the first match, and thought we lost the second one and were out (unreliable real-time scoring) when we had actually won by 5 points, and won the third match taking us to the finals… Unfortunately, while we won the first round of the finals, one of our alliance partners’ robot died in that round and they were unable to repair it and we lost the next 2 matches.  But by keeping our 2nd place standing, we won a wild-card spot to the Championship in St. Louis.

DC is where our team submits essays for some pretty big awards that are based on what your team does besides build a robot.  We won the Engineering Inspiration Award thanks to our stepping up and adopting a team from Israel by providing batteries and power tools for them to use since they could not bring their own, for our amazing outreach, including taking our interactive SquareBots to the Udvar-Hazy Center’s Halloween event, Air and Scare and to the Moon and Beyond Event, for our Robotics Poetry book, and for our team creating an animation contest for other teams after Autodesk cancelled the animation contest they had run for more than a decade.  The judges we’ve lined up for this contest include judges from Pixar, Autodesk, Disney, and the creator of Pinky and the Brain!

I could go on for hours about this team, so I’ll end it with a few pictures from the event!

Pic 1 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 1: Our Human Player, Alex, feeding ED 14.0 while our driver, Megan (orange hat), looks on.  The robots can only hold up to 4 discs at a time, and will receive a penalty if carrying more than 4 (this includes any that may bet stuck on any part of the robot).

Pic 2 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 2: Scoring Frisbees in the top 3 pt goal (other goals are worth 2 pts and 1 pt).

pic 3 FIRST Robotics: Brain Power in ActionPic 3: Our Chairman’s presentation group, Danny, Leah, and Alice. Their presentation was to 3 judges and is what made those judges send other judges to our pit to talk with the team some more and was key to us winning the Engineering Inspiration award.  The students talked to 13 judges total (15 if you count the 2 who ask solely about the robot and it’s abilities).

Again your support for our team this season is truly recognized and appreciated by all our members. The accomplishments listed in this email are just as much yours as they are the team members who were recognized this weekend.

Regards, Matthew L.

Herndon High School FIRST Robotics Team 116
Outreach Captain

Playing Mind Games!

Last summer, ThinkFun donated a shipment of great games to an exciting new after-school enrichment program in Wellington, FL. The “Mind Games” program launched in September, and founder Jenny Levin recently wrote to share an update and some great photos of learners at play!

 

Mind Games is a fun and challenging way for students to increase academic achievement while working cooperatively towards common goals. Our mission is to help students improve academic achievement by expanding their cognitive abilities and to assist them in developing important life skills that will lead to a lifetime of successes.

Mind Games will also create an environment that will help improve students’ self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence as well as provide a setting to develop interpersonal skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork and leadership.

ThinkFun games play a big role in the Mind Games curriculum. The single player games allow the students the opportunity to compete against themselves, set goals and reach new levels of play. Games such as Rush Hour, Rush Hour Jr., Hot Spot and Tilt are some of our favorites! Thank you to ThinkFun to helping make Mind Games a huge success!

 


 

Toy Fair 2013: Behind the curtain…

Each year when I tell friends – especially those with kids – that I’m headed to Toy Fair, the first response is generally, “That sounds AWESOME, how do I get in?!”

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Unfortunately for my game-loving buddies, this event is not open to the public. Learning the doors are locked tends to conjure up visions of top-secret toy meetings, tinkering elves, a massive toy workshop inside the Javits Center… the imagination can run wild!

I hope I’m not spoiling the magic by sharing the experience inside the ThinkFun booth…

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Welcome to the ThinkFun Booth!

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Laser Maze, available in May!

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I thought you said no outside visitors?! This brainy bird couldn’t resist playing WordARound during show set-up!

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The ThinkFun team, ready to roll!

Sadly no game-making elves were spotted this year, but we were thrilled to visit with some amazing  inventors who have created many of our great games… kind of the same thing right?!

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A familiar face! ThinkFun co-founder Bill Ritchie poses with his two toddler inventions: Roll & Play and, new for 2013, Hello Sunshine!

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Luke Hooper, one of the inventors of Laser Khet, stopped by to pose with the amazing new game he created with ThinkFun – Laser Maze features a REAL (safe) laser, we can’t wait for it to arrive in May!

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The Hebert Brothers are the brainy duo who created WordARound, we’re addicted!

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A visit from the inventors of UnHinged!

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The Costers are the inventors of the iconic Zingo Zinger!

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Steve Hayton, Turnstile inventor, visited ThinkFun to say hello!

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Yackety Smack inventor Roberto Fraga stopped by to play!

Despite auspicious beginnings (ahem, Snowstorm Nemo, I mean YOU!), 2013 Toy Fair was a fantastic show – The Toy of the Year Awards were a wonderful celebration to begin the festivities, and our 5 new games were so well-received – and we are looking forward to a terrific year!

Brain Buzzing? Must be time for TED!

I feel like a kid packing for summer camp!

My suitcase filled with games and toys may be to blame.

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I am so excited to take my toys and head to Palm Springs this weekend for my third TEDActive Experience! For those unfamiliar, this incredible conference happens concurrently with the TED Conference in Long Beach, with 700 individuals coming together to watch the TED Talks via live simulcast and then engage in meaningful experiences, conversation, and activation around these ideas worth spreading!

I have been so fortunate to be part of this event for the last 2 years (see my recaps from 2011 Game Suite and 2012’s Giant Swish and Game Creation Challenge workshop!), and am thrilled to return to help make this year’s conference the most PLAYFUL one yet!

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In partnership with the amazing TEDActive team, we’ve curated some amazingly fun game experiences for conference participants, from mega Rush Hour to a Caine’s Arcade-inspired cardboard creation.  I can’t wait to share all the fun next week will bring – stay tuned!

 

Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year Awards

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Cocktail dress + snow boots, good thing NY Fashion Week is over!

After a monster pre-Toy Fair snow storm (fittingly named Nemo!) threatened to derail months of careful planning, the ThinkFun team braved the elements, the train gods smiled upon the DC-NY route, and we successfully made our way to New York for the show… and what a show it was!

Things kicked off on Saturday night with the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards celebration at The Plaza hotel!  While probably not a ThinkFun-worthy puzzle, my first challenge of the show was a race against time to get ready for the TOTY Awards en route to the city, meaning a Superwoman-style change into a cocktail dress on board the Acela train… not my finest hour but it got the job done!

1TOTY 2013 194x109px Toy Fair 2013: Toy of the Year AwardsThe event was a wonderful celebration of some truly remarkable products – and we were thrilled to have three of our games (Roll & Play, Zingo Sight Words, and Swish) nominated for a record FOUR awards!

While we didn’t leave with any statues, it truly is an honor just to be nominated, and we were thrilled to have our games recognized in great company among this year’s winning games and toys.  Here are some highlights from the evening:

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Zingo! Sight Words and Roll & Play pose with their fellow nominees for Educational Toy of the Year!

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The ThinkFun team awaits the start of the show!

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Sweet! Hosts passed around popcorn and cotton candy to up the excitement

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ThinkFun CEO Andrea Barthello presents a TOTY Award

But wait! We didn’t leave entirely empty-handed! ThinkFun was recognized with a Play Connects Award for our nomination of The National Lekotek Center, a  non-profit that supports children with special needs, for a $10,000 grant! We are thrilled to support the wonderful work they do, and this award represents much-needed funding that will go to a very worthy cause.

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Andrea Barthello accepts the Play Connects Award

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The Play Connects Award – fittingly constructed of Tinker Toys!

The TOTY Awards were a fabulous way to kick off a great show – a big congrats to this year’s deserving winners!