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Young Inventor Challenge Gives Students Something to do at Home feat. Mary Couzin – 95

Episode Overview

  • Episode Topics and Interviews
    • Board Gaming with Education Updates- newsletter– 2:27
    • Who is MaryCouzin? – 4:10
    • Starting Chicago Toy and Game Week (CHITAG) – 6:48
    • All Things CHITAG – 12:18
    • The Young Inventor Challenge – 14:54
    • Play in Education (PIE) Con – 20:22
    • Last Words of Advice: Allowing Kids to Grow through Failure – 24:58
    • Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round – 29:05

On today’s episode of Board Gaming with Education, Dustin interviews Mary Couzin, the CEO and founder of Chicago Toy and Game Week. Mary talks about her history starting the company and developing the conference which strives to be the Toy & Game Industry leader in promoting innovation, creativity, and connectivity throughout the world. She gives an overview of ChiTAG Week and explains select events, like PIE Con, a convention for focusing on play in education, and The Young Inventors Challenge, a contest held every year where young inventors compete and learn from industry leaders.


Young Inventor Challenge: https://www.chitag.com/yic

Email: mcouzin@chitag.com

Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contributions of their songs “Soul Train” and “Retro Gamer” for our Sponsorship and Interview Segments. These song can be found in full on this music archive. Also, thank you to Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) for his creative commons 4.0 contribution of “Getting it Done” for our Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round.

Thank you to Dallas Welk, the editor of this episode!

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Updates from Board Gaming with Education – 1:02

Be sure to join our newsletter community!

Sponsorship for the Episode: Evolution Education Edition – 2:27

“Chosen by the world-leading scientific journal Nature Magazine as the best example of natural selection in a game, Evolution brings Darwin’s theories to life in a vivid game of strategy that is both educational and entertaining.

In Evolution, students selectively develop species for survival while avoiding the looming threat of extinction. Adaptability is key as each situation has a number of successful pathways to survival. Food supply running low? Grow a long neck to access vegetation in the trees high above. Each trait added shows realistic effects on ecosystems that mirror those of the natural world. An overabundance of plant food leads to overpopulation, which in turn leads to an increase in carnivores. Of course, with many meat-eaters on the prowl, other species will develop defenses in turn. Explore the effects natural selection has on both the environment and the creatures living within.”

Who is Mary Couzin? – 4:11

Mary Couzin is the CEO and founder of Chicago Toy and Game Week, a series of events promoting and celebrating play and innovation. Something fun about Mary? She also turned her hobby of cake sculpting into a small business!

After inventing, self-producing and licensing her own toys and games, Mary turned her passion for invention to help other inventors through DiscoverToysandGames.com, the world’s largest co-op of toy and game inventors.  In 2003, Mary launched the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (CHITAG) with a plan to create the largest American celebration of play. In 2006 she introduced the Toy & Game Inventor’s Conference to help new inventors connect with industry experts, and in 2008 the Toy & Game Innovator of the Year Awards (TAGIEs) to honor and celebrate toy and game innovators.  Tracks for professional inventors, design students, social media and play in education have been added to the Conferences through the years. Thinking to celebrate play in an edgier way, she launched PlayCHIC, a toy and game inspired fashion event in 2011. 2006 saw the debut of the Young Inventor Challenge which has over 250 kids competing from around North America and overseas. It’s all about encouraging inventiveness and creativity in kids! 

Mary is a Selection Committee Member at National Toy Hall of Fame, a CES KAPI Awards Judge and a TOTY Award Selection Committee member. She has served on TIA’s Associate Membership and PlayCon/ToyCon Committees. On occasion, she writes for ToyBook and other publications as well as actively posts in traditional and social media promoting the importance of play and innovation. She has spoken at ASTRA, NY Toy Fair, GenCon, World Congress of Play, Chicago Auto Show and ChiTAG hosted events.

She’s humbled by many honors through the years: 2019 Prestigious UK Toy Fair Inventors’ Dinner I.D.I.O.T. Award (International Designer and Inventor of Toys), 2017 Women in Toys Elise Lachowyn Mentorship Award, Women in Toys Wonder Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, 2011 TAGIE Founder’s Award, 2011 Global Toy News Person of the Year and the 2014 Woman Driving Excellence, Chicago Auto Show. She is active in local politics having served on City Council, Parks Board, Sculpture Committee, Zoning Board and Plan Commission. She is a past United Way Board Member and mentors students at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in their Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. Mary received a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and a MBA from Loyola University.

Starting Chicago Toy and Game Week – 6:48

Mary gives the history of starting her company and the inspiration behind Chicago Toy and Game Week (CHITAG). We learn how CHITAG has inspired many and a brief discussion on how the world views toy and game designers.

All Things CHITAG – 12:18

Mary goes through the various aspects and events during the Chicago Toy and Game Week. She walks us through the experience of CHITAG.

The Young Inventor Challenge – 14:54

Mary goes in-depth explaining one of the week’s signature events, The Young Inventor Challenge. She gives the history of the challenge, how it has evolved over the years, and tells the success stories of past winners.

Play in Education (PIE) Conference – 20:22

A special conference during ChiTAG Week, PIE Con, focuses on play in education. Mary explains the conference in detail as well as how to participate as an educator wanting to get students involved.

Last Words of Advice: Allowing Kids to Grow through Failure – 24:58

Mary gives some last bit of advice for anyone wanting to start inventing and designing games. She explains how as a parent or educator you can encourage a child’s creative process by allowing failure for growth.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round – 29:05

Dustin challenges Mary with some rapid-fire statements to see their unsolicited opinions on them. Be sure to tune in to hear his answers!

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