Recently, two wonderful educators and long-time friends of ThinkFun traveled to Sri Lanka as guests of the National Institution of Education. Professors Andy Liu and Wen-Hsien Sun spent a busy week meeting with education leaders and visiting several different schools – and they recently shared some great photos of their travels!
Last month marked the 10th Annual Arlington County ThinkFun Math Dice Tournament… and while these 5th graders wowed the crowd with their impressive mental math skills, the team spirit performances got equal billing as stars of the show!
You may recall stellar performances in years past, like last year’s Math Dice-themed version of “Proud Mary” or this 2010 rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” and this year’s competitors kept up the tradition by raising the performance bar ever higher.
The team from the Arlington Traditional School, otherwise known as the ATS 00Dicers, showed off impressive skills with their adaptation of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” song. Here are the Dicers performing an encore of “Dice Shop,” with lyrics below – enjoy!
Want to sing along? Here are the lyrics!
After months of anticipation, Laser Maze finally arrived last week – and the initial response has been incredible! A GeekDad writer summed the excitement up perfectly with this response to game’s arrival, “Oooh, lasers!”
Of all the game-lovers in my life to share this with, first on my list was my friend Billy. Not only is he generally brilliant (check him out in action on the TEDx stage!), but he also happens to be an aerospace engineer and expert in optics and aviation lighting… who could be more qualified to play with lasers?!
(Also – I owed him big time after sending the 36 Cube puzzle a few years ago and costing him a full sleepless night in finding the solution.) After receiving one of the very first samples this weekend, Billy and his 6 year old son dove right in. His report:
“Upon receiving an awesome gift of Laser Maze, we solved the toughest puzzles then did the obligatory double slit experiment. #opticspuzzlegames=heaven… [My son] and I investigated the beam divergence angle of the laser, as well as learned about transmission, translucence, and opacity. I’m pretty sure he will have a slightly different view of nature than many if his 6 year old counterparts…”
This last line made me laugh out loud – I have no doubt this little guy’s got quite the leg up with a dad like Billy. Unsurprisingly, having solved the hardest challenges, Billy wrote back hungry for “more diabolical challenges” …we’re on it!
Have you checked out Laser Maze? Here’s a quick how-to-play video to show you how it works:
If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you may have noticed a trend around this time every year… a yellow, rubber, and VERY noisy trend!
It seems fitting that, on the warmest day we’ve had thus far, these Spring Chickens showed up at my doorstep…
As background, these rubber chickens are given as awards for Best Team Spirit in the Arlington County 5th Grade Math Dice Tournament that happens in May! Now in it’s 10th year, we can’t wait to celebrate the brainy 5th graders at this year’s competition!
While the quest for Math Dice victory means serious competition, over the years the Rubber Chicken spirit award has taken on a life of its own – and teams have gone wild preparing songs and choreographing performances in hopes of taking home one of these little guys.
Want proof? Check out this amazing performance from last year’s competition – set to the tune of “Proud Mary,” these 5th graders were “Rollin’ On a Math Dice!”
As you can see in year’s past, the arrival of the rubber chickens marks the beginning of an exciting month of preparation. See these past posts celebrating the rubber chickens’ arrival in 2012, and in 2011!
FIRST 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: 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 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
We recently received the following message from our Turkish distributor about a pilot program using ThinkFun games in classrooms – along with a fantastic newspaper article:
We are very happy and would like to share good news proudly with you. Since the beginning of our partnership as we have always told you our vision is to present high quality and educational games that can be played enthusiastically by both children and adults everywhere in Turkey.
We believe that these useful fun games develop children academically and socially. In this way we hope to change the way people see the games in Turkey. Therefore, we have always focused on the good hands on presentations and informed people of the skills that these games improve. We have been holding workshops on how to use these games to improve children’s thinking and problem solving skills. After many years of effort we achieved to attract the attention of a lot of children, parents and teachers.
Now one of the enthusiastic teachers has set off a pilot Project on using mind improving games in classrooms and this is figured in press:) As a team we have put a lot of time and energy while building the base of this Project. Since it covers the grades from 1 to 8 we have graded and grouped the games to have a harmonious flow throughout the grades. This Project appeared on the cover page of the newspaper called “Dünya International Herald Tribune” on March 19th. We are sure that this Project will be the engine of other similar Projects.
The ThinkFun games that are being used are: Block By Block, Chocolate Fix, Hoppers, Math Dice, Math Dice Jr, River Crossing, Rush Hour Deluxe, Rush Hour Junior, Shape By Shape, S’Match, Solitaire Chess, Swish, Tipover, and Zingo 1,2,3
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!
The origins of our beloved Zingo’s name are not difficult to trace – climb one branch up on the family tree, and you’ll find the classic game of Bingo! While Zingo is designed to support early reading and language skills, I was thrilled to know its educational roots run deep – did you know the age-old game of Bingo was originally created to teach children math?! Read on to learn more – and get tips on hosting your own learning-packed bingo experience!
How to Use Bingo as an Educational Game
After it first originated in the 1500s in Italy, bingo spread through Western Europe. When it finally reached Germany it was adopted by the nation for the purpose educating young children about how to learn mathematics. This proved to be very helpful to the children, who went on to grasp all of the basics with relative ease.
Well, this lesson is just as applicable today as it was back then. You can use bingo as an educational game to help your children learn more for school. The reason why it will succeed is because you get to repackage learning within a fun trivia game that will also come with prizes. Below we will go through all of the basics on how to arrange such an event.
What You Need to Do
- Decide on the subject that you would like to cover: Pick perhaps a difficult area of education or something that would help your child’s friends.
- Start choosing the questions: Go through your chosen subject – it could be History, Math, or anything else – and select 25 questions for the kids to answer. The reason why you select 25 is because they will be playing on a 5 x 5 grid.
- Design your printable bingo cards: Use your computer to draw up a 5 x 5 grid numbered between 1 and 25 – these will be the bingo cards used for the game.
- Assign questions to the numbers: Each of the numbers on the bingo cards should correspond directly to one of your 25 trivia questions. Be sure to make a list of the questions and their assigned numbers – 25 is too many to remember.
- Get the balls ready: Go to the store and pick up at least 25 ping pong balls (extras can be used as spares). A good idea is to buy them in different colors to resemble the traditional balls. Now that you have your bingo balls you have to number them between and 1 and 25. All you need to do is draw on the numbers with a black permanent marker.
- Find a large container: This will be used to house all of the balls for the game. The way it will work is that you pick out a ball at random and then ask the corresponding questions until the game is finished. The winner will be the kid with most correct answers.
- Send out the invites: With all of the hard work out of the way you just need to send out the invites.
The Final Touches
Before we leave you, we are first going to impart some advice on creating a perfect bingo night. Make sure in advance that you have plenty of seats and chairs ready, not to mention daubers to mark off the answered questions. Also, your players will be very grateful for refreshments, so make sure you have plenty of juice boxes ready and healthy snacks for when they take a break. Lastly, make sure everyone has plenty of prizes to win because that will make the whole event more rewarding.
Follow these steps and to a fruitful and rewarding educational experience is guaranteed. Enjoy!
What can you teach with 72 plastic tiles?
This latest post, shared by Tammy G. of the Fumbling Thru Autism blog, shares some fantastic ideas (and a great how-to description for all you crafty folks!) for modifying the classic Zingo! game to expand game play and support learning!
Expanding Zingo, Posted: March, 2, 2013
In my last post, I wrote about how to make easy turn-taking games easier. Now Beth and I play turn-taking games for hours every day. It is so wonderful to work on interaction and language development and have fun at the same time.
When given a choice of games, Beth always chooses Zingo. There is something uniquely fun about sliding that dispenser to eject the game pieces, matching the pictures, and then throwing up our hands and yelling (well, quietly yelling) “Zingo!” when we are done filling our cards. During the game Beth readily talks. I ask, “What did you get?” and she almost always answers.
Lately I don’t even need to ask, she is commenting on her pieces without prompting. I also expand her language based on the game pieces. “What does the dog say?”, “Where does the bird fly?”, and “Where do you put a hat?” are just a few examples of ways we expand language during play. After running out of ideas to expand Beth’s language using the Zingo game pieces, I realized it was time to expand Zingo itself.
Below are two ways I have expanded Zingo by making custom made Zingo game pieces. I wanted to keep our original Zingo game intact so that we could still play the game, so I bought a second Zingo game (Zingo 1-2-3 numbers version, which we will use later when she is counting) to attach pictures to the game pieces.
Clip Art on Zingo Game Pieces
I bought JPEG clip art files from an artist on Etsy. Using Power Point, I sized the clip art appropriately and added text under each picture, then I printed out game boards and smaller images for the Zingo game pieces. Next, I cut out and covered the game boards with clear Con-tact paper and cut out the smaller images and attached them to the Zingo game pieces (I used clear Con-tact paper to attach the paper to the game pieces, but Scotch tape should also work).
Here are two sets of games I made with links to the JPEG files and my Power Point Templates:
Below you can find Power Point Templates to create your own boards and Zingo game pieces:
Another method is to buy stickers and put them on the Zingo game pieces, which is a great option for adding your child’s favorite characters to the Zingo game.
If you want to reuse your tiles, be aware that some self-adhesive stickers adhere strongly, so it will be a lot of work to remove the stickers. Also, it was difficult to find stickers that were the right size to cover the whole original image on the Zingo game pieces. Therefore, for most stickers sets, I cut out each sticker to the appropriate size and stuck it on white paper, then attached the mounted sticker to a Zingo game piece with clear Con-tact paper (alternatively you could use Scotch tape).
Another option is to print the images on self-adhesive computer labels and attach them to the Zingo game pieces, but they might be difficult to remove at a later time.
Want to DIY?! Tammy has generously shared JPEG files for the 4 game boards and game pieces with instructions in this post, get crafting!
I have shared several posts on the incredible William Kamkwamba, also known as the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and I’m thrilled to share the next chapter in his amazing story.
A young innovator from Malawi who taught himself to generate electricity by building a windmill from found materials and scrap parts, William embodies what it means to be a problem solver – resourceful, creative, and pioneering in his vision and drive.
On Sunday, a new documentary William and the Windmill will have its world premiere at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. This film from director Ben Nabors details both his original story and his subsequent brush with fame (click here for more) – I can’t wait to see it! You can see the movie’s trailer below: