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Oakland Schools to host first Game and Invention Challenge

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published February 11, 2020


OAKLAND COUNTY — Learning about math, science, critical thinking and problem solving isn’t fun and games.

Oh, wait. It definitely is.

The Oakland Intermediate School District and the Oakland Schools Education Foundation have developed what they’re calling the “Game and Invention Challenge,” slated to take place in March. County students in grades one through 12 will have the chance to show off their creativity and tech skills to create new games or inventions.

“The process will take each student or team of up to five through brainstorming, idea development, building a prototype, testing the game or invention, and pitching it to a team of judges at the event,” explained Andrea Berry, the executive director of the Oakland Schools Education Foundation.

The idea was sparked by one of the foundation’s trustees, Ken Johnson, of Franklin, who for several years has participated in the Young Inventors Challenge element of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.

Oh, not to mention, he’s the inventor of the popular card game Phase 10.

“I started creating games as a 12-year-old,” Johnson said, noting that his first game was called Dice Baseball.

“When I was 19, I started a game publishing company, and within a couple of years, I convinced Kmart to put it on their store shelves.”

But Dice Baseball didn’t sell so hot. Johnson kept at it and eventually came up with the concept for Phase 10, which has become a worldwide bestseller.

Even if a game or creation doesn’t bring in big bucks, the journey to bring that idea to life is a success in itself.

“This experience will draw out their natural creativity,” Johnson said. “It will teach them how to present their ideas, how to explain things so other people can understand their concepts. It will help them learn from the feedback they receive.”

Johnson will be on hand the day of the competition to advise judges and also to give a shortened version of his story that led to Phase 10.

Who knows? Maybe the next great game is just waiting to be found right here in our neighborhood.

“We wanted to bring a similar opportunity to students in Oakland County — a chance to use creative thinking and problem-solving skills, hands-on learning, and practice public speaking and presentation skills — by having them create a physical game, game app or an invention that address a challenge they face,” Berry said of the Chicago event.

Participants will be able to demonstrate their games or inventions to a team of judges and vie for awards in categories like Most Marketable Game Concept, Most Creative Concept, Most Outstanding Presentation, Best Invention, Best Solution for a Problem People Experience and Tech Center Challenge winner.

The students who come out on top of this first-time event will get to choose whether they want to walk away with cash or a chance to compete on the national level.

“The judges will provide individual feedback, and the winning project will receive a monetary prize or the opportunity to be entered into the Chicago Young Inventors Challenge — with travel expenses paid — depending on the category they win in.”

The first Oakland Schools and Oakland Schools Education Foundation Game and Invention Challenge will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 7. The deadline to register is Jan. 31, and the deadline to submit necessary entry materials is Feb. 14. Registration costs $25, and the challenge is limited to the individuals with paid registration on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sponsorship opportunities may be available for students.

For more information or to register, visit or call the Oakland Schools Education Foundation at (248) 209-2434.