Young Inventors Find Success in Serious Play at The Chicago Toy & Game Show

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”           

– Mr. Rogers


Every year, toy and game companies spend small fortunes researching, testing and retesting kids to better understand their play habits in the hopes of finding and creating the next big thing. That cool new toy that every kid must have. Or the amazing new game that everyone is talking about. But leave it to two young inventors to do it on their first try!

Meet Olivia Wasilewski and Bryanna Siewers, fifth graders from Palos Heights, Illinois who took top prize at last year’s Young Inventors Challenge at the Chicago Toy & Game Show (ChiTag) for their pirate-themed treasure hunt game, Ship of Treasures . The game has gone on to be manufactured by Pressman and has hit the shelves at Target stores nationwide.

Raising Nerd had the lucky chance to sit-down with these young innovators to learn more about how they came up with such a great game idea.


Young Inventor


RN: Tell us about your game, Ship of Treasures, and what inspired you to come up with such a great concept?

Both: We were inspired by our ALPS (Accelerated Learning Program for Students) teacher Mrs. McNamara.


Young Inventors

Olivia Wasilewski, grade 5, shows off the game that she co-invented with her friend, Brynna Siewers, as it launches nationwide at Target.

RN: What makes your game unique?

Both: It is an interactive 3D pirate game.


RN: How long did it take to develop Ship of Treasures?

Both: 3 months for the original and 12 months for the new version.


RN: What steps did you take to create your product?

Both: Create the original, improve the rules and now we have to market it.


RN: When developing the game to be sold at Target (after you won the YIC), did you have to change the game at all for a mass market audience? If so, how did this differ from your initial process for inventing Ship of Treasures?

Both: Yes, we had to change the rules and we also had to change the look of the game.


RN: What are you going to do with your royalties? 

Olivia – save the money for college

Brynna – saving the money for college


RN: Have you always been inventive or creative?

Olivia – Yes

Brynna – Yes


RN: What other things have you invented or created?

Both: Nothing, this was our first invention.


RN: What are some of your hobbies or interests (sports, games, acting, etc.)?

Olivia – art, singing, guitar, reading

Brynna – swimming, acting


RN: Are you planning to continue on this success and pursue a career in inventing?

Both:  a big YES!!!


Young Inventor

Brynna Siewers stands proudly next to Ship of Treasures as it makes its way to Target shelves.

RN: If so, what do you want to create? If not, what other career paths are you thinking about?


Both:  More toys and board games that are innovative and interactive.


RN: At Raising Nerd, we’re all about encouraging Nerds to explore and learn by failing — trial and error. Tell us about a time during the development of Ship of Treasures that you didn’t think it would work or something went wrong. How did you get around that and keep going?

Both: We had a giant spelling error on our tri-fold board at the Young Inventor Challenge, but seems like no one noticed until the end of the day.


RN: What advice would you give other young inventors who want to follow in your footsteps?

Both: Make your game stand out and don’t rely on the presentation but on the concept.



RN: So, what’s the next big thing for you two?

Both: Create more board games and toys.


Young Inventors

From early concept to shelf, Ship of Treasures before and after.


RN: If you could play Ship of Treasures with any two other people, past, present or future, who would they be and why? And, who would win?

Olivia:  Walt Disney and Albert Einstein

Brynna:  Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride – Sally Ride would win.


*   *   *

Read about some of the other Young Inventor Challenge finalists from last year’s competition:

Meet the Inventor: Tanush (Age 7)

Meet the Inventor: Steven (Age 13)


For more information on all events related to ChiTAG 2017, visit


Kid Inventors


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