By Phil Keenan
Phil Keenan (PK): I read on the Internet that three girls from Kilkenny invented a game using the TRIZ methodology. Please tell us a little about yourselves, who you are, your interests and how you learned about TRIZ?
Tara McGrath (TMC): Our project group, (the creators of) ‘Fun TRIZ for Kidz!,' is all from Kilkenny in Southeast Ireland and our school is Presentation Secondary School Kilkenny. The group included me, my cousin Tara McGrath and classmate Nicola Woodgate. I was group leader. I love art, photography, music and film. Creating new things is one of my favourite things to do. Every year since 2004 I've entered the Irish British Telecom Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition creating new inventions, solving problems and winning several awards. Vanessa and I won the Technology award in 2005. (The project focused on shape memory thermo seeds.) Last year we needed some creative inventive thinking to come up with a good project. I Googled the words "inventive thinking" and "problem solving," and to my surprise I found a method that could help me to solve my problem – TRIZ. I was blown away by the concept and was hooked.
PK: Please tell me about your invention, Fun TRIZ for Kidz!
TMC: We invented a fun, simple game to teach kids how to invent and problem solve and it's based on some of the TRIZ principles. We felt that TRIZ was a complex methodology for engineers and so to eliminate complexity we used the principals of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon and Digimon cards. We were astounded by the ability of children to apply complex strategies to a myriad of graphical cards in a game environment with such ease. So we applied this principle to our game. We studied the 40 TRIZ principles and narrowed it down to six main principles. Then we made them into colourful characters that children can relate to. The principles we then built into a game environment. This creates a fun environment (for) teaching kids to invent!
PK: How did you come to select the six concepts in the game? Can you describe the six concepts?
TMC: The six concepts were selected from our frequency of use. We used TRIZ ourselves to create some examples. In each example we used a number of principles. We ranked these and came up with our main six! Some of the principles we combined to create our own characters. (See Table 1.)
|Table 1: Six Selected TRIZ Principles|
|TRIZ Concept||Corresponding Game Card|
|Segmentation – taking out, divide, add and subtract||Mrs. Maths|
|Asymmetry – change shape||Shape Shifter|
|Merge – bring similar objects together||Mr. Jigsaw|
|Universality – kill two birds with one stone, use one thing to do two||Universal|
|The other way round – invert||Invert|
PK: How did you choose the six board characters?
TMC: We tested trial characters on kids to ensure that the instant association was what we had intended. These are the cards (see Figure 1) that we chose for our final design.
TMC: The game board follows a flow chart layout (see Figure 2) so it is easily used in a classroom situation for primary or elementary school kids.
PK: Is there a software version of the game?
TMC: Last year, as an individual project, I continued to develop our TRIZ board game idea. This led me to create TRIZ Interactive. This is a game that can be played by anyone from nine years to ninety, in school, at home as a family or with your friends.
It's a board game based on the TRIZ principles with an interactive DVD. In the game you are on a quest against time to find the Ideal Solution by banishing the Evil Contradictors and the Dark Constrainers to finally reach the Crystal Cave and the Ideal Solution. Players gain "TRIZ priciple cards"(e.g., Invert and Copy Cat) and consult resource cards and web resourses to help them to find their ideal solution.
Sitting on the "Chair of TRIZ" requires rapid decision making and allows the players to form alliances and help one another to find their solutions. Each sucess creates algorithms of pseudo-code and natural language. These can be registered on our website to gain TRIZ master points. This forms an editorial army manufacturing a database of sucessful algorithms and a self-learning web engine. TRIZ Interactive can be played against the virtual TRIZ master or, after TRIZ master status has been aquired, you may act as TRIZ master yourself. The interactive DVD game certainly has the potential to be developed into a software version.
PK: How has the TRIZ game been received by other students at your school?
TMC: First we tested the game with our younger brothers and sisters. My brother was 11 when he came up with a new invention of an inverted shoelace! We were blown away by their ability to use the concepts and apply them to problems. Then we created a workshop using our game in a classroom environment for the first year students in our school – mostly aged around 13. They grasped the concept very well and we were amazed by their interpretations. Next, the sixth years (17 and 18 year olds). They found it more difficult to apply the principles because they tried to complicate the characters. But after a few attempts they began to play with it, have fun, relax and began to problem solve. Finally the game was tested with a group of our teachers. They found it extremely difficult to use the TRIZ principles as they were so set in their ways. We asked them to be ridiculous with their ideas! Then they started to get results.
PK: What problems have been solved with the game so far? Without going into specifics of any inventions, can you share some general problems/solutions?
TMC: We asked my 11-year-old brother what his biggest problem in life was. He said, "No matter what I do, my shoe laces never stay tied!" Here is an example of how he solved this using our TRIZ game.
Problem: Shoelaces always open (untie) because pressure is put on the tongue of the shoe forcing the knot to open
Ideal Solution: An adjustable shoelace that does not open.
Use TRIZ cards to solve the problem!
Invert – Tie the laces at the bottom of of the shoe insted of the top so there will be no pressure on the tongue when you walk
Shape Shifter – Upside down
Mrs. Maths – Add cleats to lock laces
Copy Cat – Copycat the cleats from sailing boats and boots
Solution – Tie shoelaces at the bottom of the shoe and add cleats to lock the laces.
PK: What are the next steps in your product's development?
TMC: The next step in the product's development is the creation of the final prototype of the interactive DVD game for commercial use. I've already secured some seed capital and will be working this summer on the project.
PK: Do you think each of you might follow an inventive career path, perhaps as a problem solver or trouble-shooter?
TMC: Vanessa wants to be a sound engineer or a photographer. Nicola wants to be a mechanical engineer. Before I discovered TRIZ I could not imagine any career that would suit me. The idea of working in the future as a problem solver or trouble-shooter would be amazing. In the course of this project I've discovered so many new ways that the mind can work and would love to continue to discover new ways to solve problems.
PK: Many thanks for your time and enlightening description of your TRIZ games.
Phil Keenan is an inventor and TRIZ practicioner, formerly with Hewlett Packard and IBM. He now now manages Patent Café Europe whose intellectual property semantic search engine technology and invention analytics helps inventors create strong patents. Contact Phil Keenan at phil.keenan (at) patentcafe.com or visit http://www.patentcafe.com.