Palos East students’ new game is golden

 

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                                                Photo by Anthony Caciopo

Brynna Siewers (left) and Olivia Wasilewski display the game they created, “Ship of Treasures,” now on sale at Target. That’s their photo on the lower-left corner box.

 

Shiver me timbers, matey! Fifth-grade classmates Olivia Wasilewski and Brynna Siewers hit their target, quite literally, with a pirate-themed game they developed.

“Ship of Treasures,” created as part of the annual Young Inventors Challenge (YIC), has sailed onto the shelves at Target, one of the country’s leading retailers with approximately 1,700 stores. The game is also available at target.com. And the girls couldn’t be happier.

“I’m surprised and still a little shocked,” said Brynna of the whirlwind experience that has put not only their game—but their faces—in the toy aisles at Target stores.

“Well, I’m a lot shocked and a lot surprised,” countered Olivia. “I still can’t believe it.”

The friends took top honors at the 2016 Chicago Toy and Game Fair’s YIC, which has resulted in their grand-prize project going on sale Oct. 1 at Target after almost a year of development.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” said Rob Szklanecki, principal at Palos East Elementary School, 7700 W. 127th St. in Palos Heights. “Two fourth-grade (at the time) girls who put their effort into it, worked hard and made a game.”

YIC, according to organizers, provides an opportunity for children ages 6 to 18 to showcase their own original toy and game inventions to industry professionals, members of media and the general public. The judging is split into two categories: 6-11 (junior) and 12-18 (senior). ​

“I’m so proud of them,” said the girls’ teacher, Julie McNamara. “For a project that we worked on in class to come to fruition, all the way to being sold in stores, is just amazing.”

Swashbuckling pirates weren’t the first choice of Brynna and Olivia for their game, however. A dinosaur theme originally seemed like the way to go for their project but they eventually had a different idea.

“We switched gears about halfway through the process,” said Olivia of the three-month development timeline. “We were going to do a dinosaur treasure hunt game where you set it up all over the house, but then we realized we only had one table (at the competition) to display it, so we changed the theme to pirates and put it into a board game.

“We wanted something that girls and boys would enjoy,” she said.

“And dinosaurs are kind of a boy thing,” added Brynna.

The first mock-up of “Ship of Treasures” was made of cardboard and was substantially larger than the retail product, the girls said. Olivia’s father stayed up all night to fashion cardboard into the shape of a ship. Brynna’s father temporarily sacrificed the family lawn when it came time to spray paint the prototype.

“Our grass was all brown,” said Brynna of the painting process.

“The object of the game is to try to get your opponent’s treasure before they get yours,” the girls explained. “If you land on a cannonball, you explode and lose your next turn.”

The game made of plastic and resembles the deck and hull of a ship, with top-loading compartments in which each player secretly conceals his or her treasures and cannonballs at the beginning of play. Each player creates a private map on a dry-erase card of where they’ve planted the items. Rolls of the dice determine the direction the pirate figurines move about the deck, encountering the hidden treasures or the hidden cannonballs.

“Wild six!” shouts Brynna as she takes her turn with the dice during a demonstration.

“The sky is clear. You can chart a new course. Move in any direction you want,” says Olivia, reading from a card she has drawn.

“Ship of Treasures” is recommended for players eight-years-of-age and older. As many as four players can take part at one time.

Principal Mr. Szklanecki and teacher Mrs. McNamara tried their hand at the game with the girls during the demonstration.

PirateGameGirls236

                                               Photo by Anthony Caciopo

Having a go at the new game, “Ship of Treasures,” are (from left) Rob Szklanecki, Palos East principal; Olivia Wasilewski, Brynna Siewers and their teacher, Julie McNamara.

 

“Are you peeking?” Olivia said to her principal as she was setting up her treasures and cannonballs.

The girls are in ALPS at Palos East, the Accelerated Learning Program for Students. They’ve been in the same class for three consecutive years and are friends outside of school, too.

Students from both Palos East and West Elementary Schools made their parents, teachers and classmates proud last November when they won major awards in several categories at YIC. In addition to Brynna’s and Olivia’s grand prize win, Bella Narciso and Johnny Pempek were runners up in the junior category for their game, “Seastack.” Madeleine Niemiec and Evelyn Dalton earned the People’s Choice Award for their game, “Creativity Glue.”

As grand prize winners, Olivia and Brynna began a year-long mentorship—working hand-in-hand with experts from Target and Pressman Toys on prototypes, packaging and more to perfect “Ship of Treasures.” The girls even traveled to Minnesota and New York City as part of the process.

A portion of the sales proceeds from the game will be donated to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in memory of Sophie Shields, who attended Palos East.

An all-school assembly was held last Friday, celebrating the achievement with a pirate-themed spirit day in honor of their game hitting Target shelves earlier this month. News crews visited the assembly and featured the girls later that day on TV.

“Lots of class time, lots of (sacrificed) recesses,” said McNamara about the creation of the game. “We followed the inventive process in class. They brainstormed, they imagined it. They drew a rough-draft sketch and Skyped with Nick Metzler, a two-time winner of YIC who also had a game in stores.”

“As educators, it’s our dream to engage kids in learning so much that they want to do it outside of school, that it’s something they’re excited about,” said Szklanecki. “The hours they put into it, it’s a love for learning, a love for being creative and critical thinking beyond the school walls.”

And, as Olivia puts it, “We’re hoping it’s going to be the new “Monopoly!’”

 

 

 

 

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