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Is that a monkey on your desk?!

Last week I shared this photo of Josh, our Product Designer known for his lifelong love of comics and (surprise surprise) TOYS! Josh’s office is fun to visit for many reasons, but his impressive collection of desk toys ranks right up there!

Josh 300x225 Is that a monkey on your desk?!

Josh and his desk minions

Fans loved this glimpse behind the scenes, so I thought it’d be fun to share some other playful shots of desks around the office… enjoy!

Do you have any special toys or keepsakes at your desk? Please share!

TED Talk Friday: An imaginary artist and children's champion

July’s TED Talk Friday featured two hugely inspirational speakers in two very different arenas.

First up: Shea Hembry’s 2011 TED Talk ““How I Became 100 Artists” – this incredibly creative artist shared his journey to create and stage an international art show with work from 100 different artists… the only catch? he invented all of the artists and artwork himself — from large-scale outdoor installations to tiny paintings drawn with a single-haired brush!

This amazing talk is quite funny at times and shows Hembry’s incredibly creative mind, artistic range – visual storytelling at its finest!

Next up, Rita Pierson’s inspiring 2013 talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion.”

She talks about the importance of showing our students respect, to apologizing for mistakes, and to remembering, quite simply, that “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

I get goosebumps hearing Pierson speak from her heart, saying “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”  Very sadly, Rita passed away last month – this talk is a beautiful reminder of the legacy she left behind – inspiring countless students and educators to become champions.

Who was your favorite teacher growing up?

ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

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!

Andy Liu 300x198 ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

Students at the Dharmapala School welcome Professor Andy Liu

Mr Sun 300x166 ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

Professor Sun with students at a girls’ school called Sumana Balika Vidyalaya

Among the things they shared with students were ThinkFun games – specifically ShapeOMetry and Rush Hour! We love seeing these great photos of the games in action.

ThinkFun in Sri Lanka ThinkFun in Sri Lanka

Hot Dogs... ThinkFun-style

Last week, a group of ThinkFunners sat around the lunch table talking about (surprise surprise…) their lunches! A fantastic conversation evolved, with folks sharing special foods they had grown up with and unusual taste combinations each preferred. Talk soon turned to condiments… and then to Hot Dogs!

Bar Hot Dogs... ThinkFun style

As people shared their toppings of choice, jaws dropped when Juan and Nic (both from Colombia) described the traditional “perro caliente,” a dog loaded with mayo, potato chips, pineapple salsa, cheese… even quail eggs!

Colombian 300x300 Hot Dogs... ThinkFun style

Juan shows off an expertly-made perro caliente!

A Hot Dog Feast was in order… and this afternoon was nothing short of spectacular! In addition to the accoutrements for Colombian hot dogs, employees shared their condiments of choice from their own traditions.

Leave it to our Design Team to make such lovely – and informative – signage for the feast! We feasted on dogs smothered in beans, sauerkraut, chili, and LOTS of pickles!

condiments 300x300 Hot Dogs... ThinkFun style

For more photos of our delicious lunch, click hereHow do YOU eat a hot dog?!

The Purse Packrat... games to go!

As anyone who knows me and my obscenely large purse can attest, I am rarely without supplies for any given situation.

This was on display a few weeks ago, when I beat out dozens of ladies and “won” a bridal shower purse scavenger hunt. One by one items were called out (safety pins? check. eyedrops? check. lip balm? I found 3… check, check, check) and so it went, until I ended up with a mountain of things… and a victory!

WordARound at C2MTL The Purse Packrat... games to go!

Party games aside, my slight hoarding tendencies have served me particularly well when it comes to the games I always have lurking in my bag. Ready to play at a moment’s notice, I’ve whipped out games in all sorts of situations – and my recent trip to the C2-MTL Conference reinforced why this extra baggage is totally worth the shoulder stress.

I stashed a stack of cards from our new WordARound game - and aside from my umbrella (the Montreal rain is no joke!), these cards proved to be one of my smartest accessories. Between talks from incredible business innovators like Diane Von Furstenberg and Sir Richard Branson, new friends had a blast getting in a quick mental workout in the form of game play.

Do you travel with games at-the-ready? Any fun stories or tips to share about spontaneous play?

 

The man behind the Laser... meet Luke Hooper!

Folks are getting fired up about Laser Maze! Since behind every great game are some equally amazing brains, I thought it would be fun to introduce the inventor, Luke Hooper! Luke also invented the award-winning strategy game Laser Khet 2.0, and he has done a brilliant job translating the fun of laser play to a solo logic game!

Laser Maze Inventor2 1024x768 The man behind the Laser... meet Luke Hooper!

Luke & Laser Maze strike a pose at Toy Fair 2013

So Luke, what inspired you to create Laser Maze? 

Luke: Anyone who has ever picked up a laser pointer naturally starts to play with it in their own way, regardless of age. Unfortunately, a lot of things in physics and math don’t translate to everyday life in a way that justifies how amazing they are, but with lasers, it’s exactly the opposite. There is a universal coolness to controlling this very focused beam of light.

I was a huge fan of puzzles and single-player puzzle games as a kid and never really outgrew the fascination. When it comes to packaging games with challenges that have a great blend of fun and substance, ThinkFun is the leader in the puzzle game market for a reason. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the final game fit their high standard to satisfy puzzlers of all levels.

 

What has been the reaction you’ve heard to the game? 

Luke: All very positive thankfully! Anyone who has played Khet or shined a laser pointer off of a mirror has felt the satisfaction and wonder of seeing a laser end up somewhere completely different than the direction in which you originally aimed. Add to that the natural satisfaction of solving a puzzle, and you’ve got double the payoff with Laser Maze.

 

What was the biggest challenge in creating Laser Maze?

Luke: It is really tough to make a laser-based game in real life because the laser follows real life rules (physics)! This means that everything in the game has to be aligned almost perfectly, with errors smaller than 1/10 of a degree or the game won’t work. Solving these problems goes beyond typical game manufacturing, so a master’s degree in mechanical engineering was a big help!

 

Are there benefits/skills resulting from game play that you find surprising?

Luke: The unique mechanics involved with splitting beams introduces a new type of logical thinking that draws people into physics, geometry, and reasoning that normally wouldn’t touch a puzzle game!

 

Haven’t seen Laser Maze yet?! Check out this quick how-to-play video:

“I’m gonna roll them dice…”

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!

ATS Math Dice Song DICE SHOP Lyrics page 001 791x1024 Im gonna roll them dice...

Get FIRED UP for Laser Maze!

Laser 1004 HiRes ActionShot2 Get FIRED UP for Laser Maze!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:

TED Talk Friday: Hearing color, confronting bullying

For Friday’s TED Talk screening, we began with a great talk suggested by one of our designers. In his 2012 talk at TEDGlobal, color blind artist Neil Harbisson introduced the audience to an amazing device that allows him to HEAR color!

In his talk, “I listen to color,” Harbisson encouraged us all to be more like cyborgs, and we were left intrigued to “hear” how our own faces would sound.

We then watched my favorite talk from 2013 – spoken word poet Shane Koyczan’s “To this day,” for the bullied and beautiful.

As I shared in my post-conference review, this particular talk brought the TEDActive audience to tears – and to their feet. It generated some very powerful responses among our ThinkFun group too – from a discussion on cyber bullying to personal reflections on our own childhood to the impact that bullying has not only on the “bully” and the “bullied,” but to bystanders who feel powerless to intervene. Many parents also shared changes they’ve seen in their children’s school experience due to heightened awareness.

I’d love to hear your reactions to either of these talks in the comments below!

TED Talk Fridays kick off at ThinkFun: Education and Introverts

Coming off the heels of yet another incredible TEDActive experience, I wanted to find a way to bring some of the TED magic back to the office. Last month, I instituted TED Talk Fridays here at ThinkFun, and the response was fantastic!

ted logo TED Talk Fridays kick off at ThinkFun: Education and Introverts

The format is super simple and agenda-less – I wanted this to be an informal time to gather and get inspired by new ideas. The conversations that organically bubbled up in response to the talks were far more powerful than any prompt I could have planned.

We started off with – who else – the amazing Sir Ken Robinson and his epic 2006 talk on How Schools Kill Creativity. With over 16 million views, this seemed a safe place to begin, and it generated some fantastic discussion about our own school experiences and the directions we may have gone if the system allowed for more creative exploration.

Next up was Susan Cain, speaking in 2012 about the Power of Introverts.

Interested in watching along with us? As our TED Talk Fridays continue, I’ll post links to the 2 videos we watch and will look forward to you joining us virtually – please share your comments or any ideas these videos spark!