Events News

Toy Industry Vets, Educators and Mentors Join the People of Play Young Inventor Challenge Advisory Board

People of Play PoP Young Inventor

People of Play (POP), host of the preeminent toy and game industry events that occur during Chicago Toy & Game Week, is honored to announce the formation of an advisory board for the Young Inventor Challenge (YIC), a toy and game design and pitch competition for children ages 6 to 18 that is held during the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.


“2023 marks the 17th year of the Young Inventor Challenge and has grown so much recently that we knew it was time to put an advisory board together,” said Mary Couzin, founder and president of People of Play. “Recent partnerships with ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) and Happy Camper Live (a company that brings the fun of summer camp to kids 365 days a year) have brought our program to thousands more young inventors! Expansion also means we need more mentors, judges and sponsors. Please reach out to us if you are interested!”


Young Inventor Challenge events have multiplied with the popularity of the competition and now happens all year long in toy stores, at summer camps, and even online, culminating at the Young Inventor Challenge International World Championship in Chicago, every November. The mission of the Young Inventor Challenge is to inspire the next generation to use creativity, critical thinking, and STEAM skills in the invention and innovation process and to connect professional mentors in multiple fields with the young innovators.


“The rapid expansion of the YIC events and business partnerships necessitated the formation of a board,” said Tim Walsh, YIC Advisory Board Chair and founder of The Playmakers, a toy and game design firm.


Young Inventor Challenge Advisory Board members include:


Alicia Alexander-Klitsner: Educator and former YIC Director

Helaina Cappel: Founder of Kids Table Board Gaming, former teacher and game designer

Mary Couzin: President and Founder of People of Play

Michael Gramelspacher: Co-Director and Founder of SG Labs, Co-Organizer of the St Clare School Innovator Club (SCIC)

Ahren Hoffman: Director of the Young Inventor Challenge, Marketing & Communications Manager at Crazy Aaron’s

Ken Johnson: Inventor of Phase 10 and member of Michigan’s Oakland School District, which hosts an all-school toy and game competition

Julie McNamara: Advanced Level Performance System (or ALPS) Teacher at Palos East School in Palos Heights, Illinois

Allison Miller: Founder and President of Happy Camp Live

Gene Murtha: ASTRA Board member, POP Executive Committee, and Regional Director of SCORE

Erik Quam: VP of New Product and Business Development, Smart Toys and Games

Tim Walsh – Founder of Playmakers and board chair