Alicia Alexander, Director of ChiTAG’s Young Inventor Challenge
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My two favorite games when I was a child were dominoes and cribbage. We used to play Sunday night dominoes games with my mom, dad and brother, and they were intense and a ton of fun! My dad taught me how to play cribbage when I was in elementary school. I loved the math, the strategy and the bluffing, and that it was something that just he and I did together. When I met my husband, it was one of the first games we played together… and it was competitive! His dad taught him to play when he was a child too, so that is something we share!
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I’m not REALLY in the Toy and Game Industry. I’m an educator who has moved into the communications world. I work with school districts and kids. My husband is a Toy/Game inventor, and I love to play games. I started helping him and his company, KID, manage concepts and meetings when traveling to Toy Fairs, shows, and meetings. My Super Hero Power is being organized and getting people places on time! He asked me a couple of years ago if I’d be interested in helping judge the Young Inventor Challenge. I had been to the event and was amazed by the intellect, creativity and enthusiasm of the kids involved! So of course I said, “YES!” And after a couple of years of judging and helping with the event, I have become more deeply involved.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Be yourself. Find your passion. Do what you love! I hope that all 4 of our kids do this. It’s SO important to be passionate about what you do every day… my daughter was recently explaining what she wants to work on this summer. The beginning started like this: Biochemica lcharacterization of transcriptional regulators from the radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus rasiodurans with cloning, overexpression and purification of putative gene regulatory proteins, characterization of DNA- and ligand-binding properties… (I’m not kidding) She said to me, “You’re glazing over, aren’t you? I know it’s nerdy.” I laughed out loud and told her that I was glazed, a little bit, because I couldn’t actually pronounce any of it. But that I was so happy she’d found something that she’s so passionate about, and that my dream for her is that she can follow that passion and love what she does every day (and maybe teach her mom a few things)!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The kids! Talking to kids about their interests, their projects, their passions, their day. I love being in a classroom and watching them problem-solve, or talking to the YIC entrants about how they came up with their game and toy inventions. They are so thoughtful, creative, uninhibited, and inspired.
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I was born and raised in Hawaii, in an outdoor playground. We spent a lot of time outside and at the beach, playing games, fishing, diving, hunting for the perfect shell, playing in the waves. Our summer vacation was always a month “in the country” at the beach with no tv, lots of board games, and a weekly field trip to the library. I still relish that time in the outdoors, playing games, hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, or just with my toes in the sand reading a book.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My iPad mini! It is a life saver to keep my work photos and social media off of my phone and personal computer! I work in communications for school districts and manage their websites and social media so have hundreds of photos that I take at sites. It’s compact and fits in my purse. It allows me to curate and post content conveniently and quickly. My dream tool!
Do you have any kiddos?
YES! I have FOUR! A son, Will, 17, who is a senior in high school, and deep in college applications right now. A daughter, Maggy, 19, who is a biochemistry and molecular biology major at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Two step sons, Sam, 24, who graduated from UCLA and lives and works as a designer in LA, and Miller, 22, who is a senior in the Design and Media Arts Program at UCLA. Yes, a science-y girl and 3 artsy boys!
Do you have any pets?
We have a Brittany named Maile who is 13! People still ask us how old our “puppy” is because she is so full of energy and spunk. Maile is the Hawaiian word for calm and gentle… which was wishful thinking! She is definitely gentle! But we are still working on calm.
What is your eye color?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
Definitely HAPPY ENDINGS. And I ALWAYS cry.
Summer of Winter?
Summer! With a beach chair, sand, a book and an umbrella.
Kisses or hugs?
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
My parents took our family (8 of us) on a magical trip to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was as far from home as possible, in fact Botswana is actually the polar opposite of Honolulu on the globe! We had a magical month there, immersed with family in different cultures.
What are your hobbies?
Knitting, hiking, reading, tennis, and trying to beat my husband at a game. Any game.