Over 200 students have tested and almost 300 teachers have expressed their opinion about the new board game ChemPlay in which pupils in primary and secondary schools learn about inorganic chemistry. 99.7% of them felt enthusiastic about the game and we obtained the first immediate orders. We need help to raise capital for the production of the first sets of games of which has many been pre-ordered.
When we as 13-year olds began to learn inorganic chemistry at school, unlike other classmates we found this subject fun. Eventually we figured out that the most common reason for their disinterest was misunderstanding of the subject matter.We realised it would be good to change something. Learning should not be about memorising but about understanding. But it is essential that pupils receive information out of their own interest and they are at least a little intrigued by the topic.
At that time we were working on a theme of inorganic chemistry at school and we decided to contribute in the form of an original and brand new game. Well, what is more appealing to children than a game?
The basic premise was that it will be a board game played by several players at the same time. It seemed important to us because children don’t seem to talk to each other these days. They all text, e-mail, Skype etc. but they don’t talk. Another reason was that we realised that we generally play very little together in groups. Board games meet all these criteria.
The process of creation of the game was fun but also exposed our ability to compromise. We had a lot of ideas but not all of them could be incorporated. Just the game plan had 58 different versions! However the name ChemPlay came to us in a toy store and we agreed on it right away.
When the game was ready in our eyes we were curious what the grown ups would say about it.
We learnt about a competition called the Festival of Science and Technology and we signed up. We had nothing to lose so we tried our luck.
We missed the application deadline for the regional round but the rules allowed us to apply directly to the national round and we took this opportunity. The second time good fortune met us was in the form of awards. It was our first contest and we won the prize of Faculty of Natural Science of Comenius University in Bratislava. AMAVET (organizer of the competition) appreciated it so much they sent it to the World Festival of Youth Science MILSET Expo-Sciences International 2015 (19 -25.7.2015) in Brussels.
Thanks to interviews with visitors and jurors at the festival we realized that some details needed to be changed. Therefore we worked on the design for another 3 months. During this time we consulted especially with the Civic Association Scientific Toys and we were given much needed advice. Then we decided to try the game directly in a classroom.
Apprehensively, we approached our own chemistry teacher and we were pleasantly surprised when he gave us space in his lessons. After this trial came further testing at other schools. We would like to thank the teachers who let us trial the game in their lessons.
Testing proved that we were not wrong. When kids played they peacefully soaked up new information but they had fun at the same time. They were absolutely unaware that while they were playing they were learning and being tested as well. The important thing was that they learnt voluntarily, they consulted each other and boldly asked the teacher questions. Our game delighted the children as well as teachers. For us, two things were essential: Finding that the game worked and the overall enthusiasm for it.
We had a tested game together with a set of rules which have received much feedback from teachers; we had a working prototype.
We started presenting the game mainly at professional conferences of chemistry and science teachers whenever we could so as many educators as possible would learn about it. Because the game proved successful with teachers and children in Slovakia we became curious about the opinion of our neighbors in Czech Republic.
On the web we found an event for students of primary and secondary schools in Pardubice for which we applied. The quality of works of Czech students in chemistry was very high. It was a conference with two competition categories. We were pleased that we managed to win one of them. Representatives of the University of Pardubice and the Department of Education at the Municipality of Pardubice were enthusiastic and encouraging.
To an increasing interest of teachers, another happy coincidence was added: David Richter of AMAVET sent us tickets to the TEDx Youth event where we met many interesting people.
We had no idea that anything like ‘Connect’ existed and what it was good for. At least not until we met Vlado Vaculik at TEDx. Vlado gave us plenty of advice; he opened our eyes and showed us completely new opportunities. Thanks to one conversation with him we began to seriously think about how to turn the prototype into a salable product that would be easily available to classroom teachers. At the end of our meeting he gave us more valuable information. He advised us that two days later there was to be the first meeting with organizers of public utility projects: the Social Impact Award (SIA). Simultaneously with the competition the Impact Academy was taking place and the deadline for applications was in two days!
We participated in the initial meeting; we talked with the judges and mentors and received further advice. Within two days we applied for the Impact Academy and ChemPlay was selected as one of the projects! Two months of work and super mentoring by Juraj Kovac followed. Always well tuned to the project, Juraj Kovac gradually kept asking new questions that pushed us forward.
During this 2 month programme, crtically, we remodeled our website and launched online ordering. We started to see things more clearly and we decided to apply for the big SIA competition.
The shift that we have made within the Impact Academy was most important in that that we also decided to join the prestigious Czech competition Idea of the Year 2015. The rules permitted our participation so we tried it. The jury was choosing the TOP 30 from among 152 projects. While we were waiting for the outcome in Prague, the SIA competition in Bratislava was in full swing and we managed to advance to the finals! Then in Prague we got further great news; we were promoted to the TOP 30!
The SIA finals evening was amazing. Exactly 5 minutes before our final presentation we received an e-mail from Prague with news that we had proceeded to the TOP 12! Our joy was immense. It was so exhilarating that our presentation at SIA was stress-free, relaxed and enthusiastic. It all helped on our journey to carry away First Prize.
Emotions and joy were huge but we had to “run” home because we had a school exam the very next day. Between all of this, of course, we had to go to school. And we still did not know what further action in the Czech contest was to come.
Let’s go back a little to the Idea of the Year 2015 competition; participation in the TOP 30 brought new responsibilities and tasks that we had to meet within strict deadlines.
But we were so motivated that we made it. At this point of the competition, our online ordering launch proved to be the key. We had to resolve the issue of high production costs of the game and figure out the optimal amount of units to be produced for the optimal selling price. We addressed the question of sale price and margin.
While the SIA competition was mostly covering the social dimension of the project, the Czech Idea of the Year competition was much more business orientated. Luckily for us when we launched our web site we had pretty much resolved the commercial side of the project.
The mentoring programme in Prague was interesting; Mr. Hrdlicka who coaches the top Czech manager leaders in presentations crushed our presentation literally to powder in a very sophisticated way. However, at the same time he explained to us how to make a serious presentation from our bad attempt.
So we jumped into a busy day with both feet. The very first mentoring session was heldin English.The whole day was full of advice, ideas and recommendations.We left for hometired but with heads full ofideas and notebooks full of notes.
We only had one more week left to prepare for the finals and we still needed to shoot a video, rewrite our presentation and do the school exams we had missed.
Thus came D-day (actually two days) of the competition.
Upon arrival we were immediately moved to NODE 5, where the entire competition was held and waited for instructions for when we would have to stand before the jury. The time came; we delivered our presentation as best as we could at that moment.
The results and the celebratory evaluation were scheduled for the next day. On the last morning we gained another new experience. We received an offer from hithit.cz for crowd funding.
We had heard about it at the Impact Academy but now it was a real offer to raise money for the game production. At that time we already had first sponsors but we still hadn’t raised enough finances so we were very happy.
Finally came the gala evening. We wore again our ChemPlay shirts and full of expectations we waited for the decision. Does the 5th place overall out of 152 projects and a prize for the Best student project need any commentary? It was an evening of great joy, lights, photography, interviews with the Czech press and television. The next morning was sobering however as we discussed when were we going to write an essay for our chemistry class!
As winners of the SIA 2015 we won a superb 3-month long incubation programme which we are still part of and Juraj Kovac is leading us. We are trying to do everything in our power to be holding a ready made game in our hands that we will send to our clients by the end of holiday season. We are getting orders from Slovakia and Czech Republic. We believe that we will start getting orders from other EU countries too.
What‘s next? We are reaching out and looking for sponsors who believe in our project. And we are meeting great people who are trying to help us in different ways.
What about us? We are not planning to stop with chemistry. The game is liked by teachers and children; there is a growing interest in the game as increasing orders show, thus we are already contemplating versions for other “problematic” subjects. The greatest interest is physics.
Do you also want to learn chemistry in a playful way? Try ChemPlay. DreamJobSupport team tested the game and it really is a lot of fun. That’s why we decided to support these young entrepreneurs on the road to success.