Title:
Consequence based story block learning system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An educational system and method, which may incorporate features of a book, a block game, and/or a puzzle, with the purpose of teaching various principles or lessons. The inventive system includes a plurality of pieces of potentially different geometric shapes. The pieces are sequential in nature and each block is associated with a portion of the story. As part of the story, a participant is asked various questions, allowing the participant to test their instincts and/or knowledge. Based on the decisions that are made, different faces of the blocks are set down. If the correct decisions are made, the end result is a structure, which by its textual, graphical, and/or sculptural appearance, as a whole, communicates an idea or concept. In variations of the invention, each piece has an instability feature, and when the participant incorrectly answers a question, the participant is directed to orient the piece in such a way with respect to one or more other pieces that an unstable structure is created.



Inventors:
Sanyal, Vikash (Valley Center, CA, US)
Sanyal, Juli L. (Valley Center, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/914045
Publication Date:
03/24/2005
Filing Date:
08/06/2004
Assignee:
SANYAL VIKASH
SANYAL JULI L.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F3/00; A63F9/08; A63F9/12; A63F9/18; G09B17/00; A63F3/02; A63F9/26; A63F9/34; G09B; (IPC1-7): A63F3/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
SUHOL, DMITRY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COOLEY LLP (ATTN: IP Docketing Department Suite 700 1299 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20004, US)
Claims:
1. An educational system including: a plurality of geometric pieces, each of the plurality of geometric pieces conveying a portion of an idea, which becomes apparent when a collection of the plurality of geometric pieces are positioned in a predetermined manner, the plurality of geometric pieces including: at least one geometric piece with a representation of a portion of a story; at least one geometric piece displaying a question relating to the portion of the story wherein the question is intended to elicit a response from a participant; and at least one geometric piece including directions informing the participant how to position one of the plurality of geometric pieces as a function of the response from the participant.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces includes an instability feature so as generate an instability when the at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces is not positioned in accordance with the predetermined manner.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the instability feature is a mechanical instability feature.

4. The system of claim 2 wherein the instability feature is a magnet.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces includes a electronic display for displaying one of the portions of the idea.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces conveys one of the portions of the idea with graphical information.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces conveys the portion of the idea with textual information.

8. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces conveys the portion of the idea with topological features.

9. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of geometric pieces includes both the question and the directions.

10. An instructional method utilizing a plurality of geometric pieces, each of the plurality of geometric pieces having a plurality of faces, the method comprising: presenting at least a portion of a story to a participant; questioning the participant in connection with the portion of the story so as to elicit an answer from the participant; directing the participant to place one of the plurality of geometric pieces on a surface with an orientation that is a function of the answer, wherein the stability of the one of the plurality of geometric pieces is a function of the orientation.

11. The method of claim 10 wherein the stability of the one of the plurality of geometric pieces is perceptible by the participant when the one of the plurality of geometric pieces is placed on the surface so as to provide the participant with feedback relative to the answer.

12. The method of claim 10 wherein the surface is a surface of another of the plurality of geometrical pieces.

13. The method of claim 10 including: using a magnetic field to affect the stability of the positioned geometrical piece.

14. The method of claim 10 including: using a mechanical feature to affect the stability of the positioned geometrical piece.

15. The method of claim 10 wherein the presenting includes presenting the portion of the story with text on a surface of another of the plurality of geometric pieces.

16. The method of claim 10 wherein the questioning includes questioning the participant with text on a surface of the one of the plurality of geometric pieces.

17. A method for teaching using a plurality of geometric pieces, the geometric pieces having a plurality of faces, the method comprising: presenting at least a portion of a story to a participant; providing the participant with a plurality of questions relating to the story so as to elicit a plurality of answers from the participant; directing the participant to position each of the plurality of geometric pieces with an orientation that is a function of a corresponding one of the plurality of answers, wherein the plurality of geometric pieces, after being positioned, collectively express an idea.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein the plurality of positioned geometric pieces textually express the idea.

19. The method of claim 17 wherein the plurality of positioned geometric pieces sculpturally express the idea.

20. The method of claim 17 wherein the plurality of positioned geometric pieces graphically express the idea.

21. The method of claim 17 wherein the idea is a moral for the participant to take away from the story.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/493,534 entitled CONSEQUENCE BASED STORY BLOCK LEARNING SYSTEM, filed Aug. 7, 2003, and is related to U.S. non-provisional application Ser. No. ______ entitled INTERCHANGEABLE SURFACE SYSTEM FOR TOY BLOCKS, filed concurrently herewith on Aug. 6, 2004, which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to learning systems and methods, and more specifically to building blocks utilized in learning systems and methods.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

One of the most common toys enjoyed by children is building blocks. Basic building blocks are typically cube-shaped such that they are easily stackable. Often, the blocks include numbers, letters or pictorial representations on the sides.

Basic building blocks have been modified for use in complex puzzles and games. For example, games have been developed which require a participant to place blocks together so that graphical characters are aligned with similar graphical characters on adjacent blocks.

Some games have been established which utilize blocks to teach relationships, similarities and differences in a number of subject matters. For example, each block may include at least two sets of indicia, which bear a relationship to one another such that manipulation of the block discloses the relationship between the indicia or lack thereof.

Other games have been developed that require participants to take turns placing irregularly-shaped blocks on top of each other in a manner which permits the resulting structure to remain erect rather than collapsing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, the invention can be characterized as an educational system including a plurality of geometric pieces. Each of the plurality of geometric pieces conveys a portion of an idea, and the idea is apparent from the collection of the plurality of geometric pieces, as a whole, when each of the plurality of geometrical pieces is positioned in accordance with a predetermined manner. The plurality of geometric pieces include at least one geometric piece with a portion of a story; at least one geometric piece including a question relating to the portion of the story so as to elicit a response from a participant; and at least one geometric piece including directions informing a participant how to position one of the plurality of geometric pieces as a function of the response from the participant.

In another embodiment, the invention may be characterized as a method for teaching using a plurality of geometric pieces, each of the geometric pieces having a plurality of faces. The inventive method includes presenting at least a portion of a story to a participant; providing the participant with a plurality of questions relating to the story so as to elicit a plurality of answers from the participant; directing the participant to position each of the plurality of geometric pieces with an orientation that is a function of a corresponding one of the plurality of answers, wherein the plurality of geometric pieces, after being positioned, collectively express an idea.

In a further embodiment, the invention may be characterized as a method for teaching utilizing a plurality of geometric pieces, each of the plurality of geometric pieces having a plurality of faces. The method including presenting at least a portion of a story to a participant; questioning the participant in connection with the portion of the story so as to elicit an answer from the participant; directing the participant to place one of the plurality of geometric pieces on a surface with an orientation that is a function of the answer, wherein the stability of the one of the plurality of geometric pieces is a function of the orientation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above and other aspects, features and advantages of the present invention will be more apparent from the following more particular description thereof, presented in conjunction with the following drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a front side of a structure resulting from a participant's successful answering of questions presented in connection with a story according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 2A-2F are six respective faces of a piece that may be used as one of the pieces of the structure of FIG. 1 according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a flowchart depicting steps carried out as part of the novel educational method according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 4A-4F depict respective views of each of six faces of an exemplary content piece that may be used as one of the pieces of the structure of FIG. 1 according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 5A-5F depict respective views of each of six faces of an exemplary question piece that may be used as one of the pieces of the structure of FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an “assembly side” of a stable structure assembled from the content and question pieces of FIGS. 4 and 5 respectively according to an exemplary embodiment;

FIGS. 7A and 7B depict perspective views of one embodiment of a piece with a mechanical instability feature as oriented when an answer is correct and incorrect, respectively;

FIG. 8 is a is a perspective view of a piece with a recessed portion to accommodate the raised portion of the piece depicted in FIGS. 7A and 7B;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a piece including instability features realized by magnets in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a piece with a removable outer wrap that has been detached in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the piece of FIG. 10 with the removable outer wrap attached in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 a perspective view of a content wrap that may be used to implement sides one through four of the content piece of FIGS. 4A-4F;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a question wrap that may be used to implement sides one through four of the question piece depicted in FIGS. 5A through 5F;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a piece, which incorporates a magnet to realize an instability feature in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15, shown is a side view of the core of FIG. 14;

FIG. 16 is a cut-a-way view of the core taken along line 16-16 in FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the core of FIG. 10 including magnets embedded therein;

FIG. 18 is a playing surface configured to support pieces depicted in FIGS. 2, 4 and 5 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a piece of FIG. 1 implemented as an electronic piece; and

FIG. 20 is a cut-a-way view taken along line 2020 in FIG. 19.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding components throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following description is not to be taken in a limiting sense, but is made merely for the purpose of describing the general principles of the invention.

The present invention contemplates a novel educational system and method, which in various embodiments may have attributes of a book, a block game, and/or a puzzle. According to several embodiments, the inventive system includes a plurality of pieces, e.g., building blocks, of potentially different geometric shapes, which are ultimately arranged, as a result of a participant's elicited responses, into a structure, which by its textual, graphical, and/or sculptural appearance as a whole communicates an image, idea and/or concept. In some embodiments for example, the resulting structure conveys a principle to the participant.

In several embodiments, the participant's responses are elicited by questions presented in the context of a story. The participant, for example, is presented with a story and the participant follows along with the story until a question, which relates in some way to the subject matter of the story, is presented to the participant. Based upon the participant's response to the question, the participant is directed to orient the piece in a particular manner and place the piece to form a portion of the structure. In this way, the participant's answers affect the appearance of the resulting structure.

Advantageously, the educational method according to several embodiments of the present invention provides immediate visual, and in some embodiments, tactile feedback to the participant about their response, which reinforces the participant's retention of the principles conveyed. Furthermore, the participant's interest is more easily engaged because the participant is involved with both a story and a gradual, yet substantially continual, building of a structure. Thus, the education system and method according to several embodiments of the present invention provides an effective learning tool, which is often more entertaining than a book intended to convey a similar concept.

Referring first to FIG. 1, shown is a perspective view of a front side of a structure 100 resulting from a participant's successful answering of questions during a story according to one embodiment of the present invention. As shown, the structure 100 is comprised of several pieces 102A-J that have been arranged, as a result of a participant's responses to questions, to convey a message that includes a moral for the participant to take away from the story.

In the present embodiment, the structure presents a textual message in connection with artistic graphics, and several pieces include a portion of the textual message so that when arranged, the pieces convey a principle, e.g., a moral. Although only one side of the structure 100 is shown with a message and graphics, it should be recognized that the front side alone or both the front and back side of the structure 100 may include a message and/or graphics.

As shown in the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the pieces are uniformly shaped, e.g., of a general cubic shape. In other embodiments, however, the individual pieces vary in size and shape.

In some embodiments, the pieces are sequentially ordered and each piece contains a portion of a story. Referring next to FIGS. 2A-2F, for example, shown are six different faces of a piece 200 that may be used to implement the structure 100 of FIG. 1 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIGS. 2A-2F, each piece 200 includes a portion of the story, a question, directions to place the piece and a two faces with a portion of a picture and/or text that form a portion of a front and back face of the structure 100.

While referring to FIGS. 2A and 2F, simultaneous reference will be made to FIG. 3, which is a flowchart representing steps carried out as part of the novel educational method according to one embodiment of the present invention.

Initially, a portion of a story is provided to a participant (Step 300). As shown in FIG. 2A, a first face of the piece 200 in this embodiment includes a textual presentation of a portion of a story. The portion of the story is then either read to the participant or the participant reads the portion of the story. In other embodiments, the portion of the story is presented to the participant by other means as discussed further herein.

After the participant has read or has had the portion of the story read to them, a question is presented to the participant (Step 302). In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 2B, the question is presented on a second face of the piece, but this is certainly not required. In variations of this embodiment, the question relates to the subject matter of the portion of the story presented to the participant on the first face of the piece 200.

In one embodiment, for example, the portion of the story provided to the participant (Step 300) sets up a moral predicament for a character in the story, and the question asks the participant to choose among two or more potential actions that the character should take to handle the predicament.

In another variation, the portion of the story provided to the participant (Step 300) provides information to the participant about a subject, and the question is directed to testing the comprehension and/or retention of the participant.

Next, based upon the response that the participant provides, the participant is provided with directions indicating how the piece should be oriented with respect to other pieces (Step 304). In the present embodiment shown with reference to FIG. 2C, a third face of the piece includes the directions, which indicate how the user is to orient the piece.

As shown in FIGS. 2D and 2E respectively, a fourth face and fifth face of the piece include part of a picture and/or part of a message. In this embodiment, if the participant answers the question correctly, the directions indicating how the piece should be oriented will direct the participant to place the piece so that the part of the picture and/or message on the fourth and fifth faces line up with respect to other portions of the picture and/or message on adjacent pieces.

If the participant answers incorrectly, the directions indicating how the piece should be oriented will direct the participant to place the piece so that the part the picture and/or message on the fourth and fifth faces do not line up with respect to other portions of the picture and other portions of the message on adjacent pieces.

In the present embodiment, as shown with reference to FIG. 2F, a sixth side of the piece includes an instability feature that makes the piece unstable when oriented in a particular manner with respect to other pieces. In the present embodiment, when the participant answers the question incorrectly, the participant is provided with directions that lead the participant to place the piece so that a portion of the resulting structure will be unstable.

In the exemplary embodiment, the resulting instability from an incorrect answer is immediately noticeable; thus providing immediate feedback to the participant that the answer was wrong. This noticeable instability advantageously provides an association between instability and the incorrect answer they provided. In other words, the instability helps to provide reinforcement, which merely reading alone cannot provide, that the incorrect answers provide undesirable consequences. Conversely, when an answer is provided correctly, the participant receives positive reinforcement from the feeling of setting a piece down, which does not wobble, and provides a solid foundation for other pieces.

Furthermore, it is believed that some people may learn better when interacting, e.g., touching, rather than merely reading, in part because of the associations discussed above, but also because the tactile interaction may help some people learn and retain information better.

In the present embodiment, when a question is answered incorrectly, and hence, a piece is unstable when placed (Step 306), the question is presented to the participant again (Step 302), and steps 304 and 306 are carried out again until the participant answers correctly. In this way, the participant is provided with quick feedback while the question is still fresh in the participant's mind.

In other embodiments, the user is able to continue receiving portions of the story, answering questions and placing blocks, even though there may be instabilities in the structure produced. In these other embodiments, it is contemplated that the participant will be able to later locate sources of the instability and related it back to incorrect decisions and/or answers made during Steps 300 through 304.

If there are no more pieces to be placed (Step 308), then a structure (e.g., the structure 100), which as a whole conveys a principle, is presented to the participant (Step 310). In one embodiment as shown with reference to FIG. 1, the principle is a moral, but this is certainly not required. Additionally, in the present embodiment, the pieces implemented in accordance with FIGS. 2A-2F produce a structure with a picture and/or textual content on the side (not shown) opposite the front face of the structure 100.

In another embodiment, the pieces are functionally divided into content pieces, which include a portion of a story, and question pieces, which include a question relating to the portion of the story on a corresponding content piece. For example, FIGS. 4A-4F are views of each of six faces of an exemplary content piece 400 and FIGS. 5A-5F are views of each of six faces of an exemplary question piece 500.

As shown in FIG. 4B, a second face of the content piece 400 in this embodiment includes the portion of the story that is provided to the participant (Step 300), and once the participant has received the portion of the story, the participant is directed to place the content piece 400 by an arrow on a fifth face of the piece 400 as shown in FIG. 4E. A sixth face, as shown in FIG. 4F, which will make up a portion of the final presentation (e.g., image and/or message) is on a face opposite (i.e., parallel) to the fifth face.

As shown in FIGS. 4A, 4C and 4D, the remaining faces of the content piece 400 in this embodiment are three faces available for textual and/or graphical information. These remaining illustrations do not form a larger image or message based upon the participant's answers, but instead may be complete, self-contained images or may be portions of a larger puzzle formed with other content and/or question pieces. In the exemplary embodiment, the fourth face of the content piece depicted in FIG. 4D and third face of the question piece depicted in FIG. 5C include content that makes up the portion of a puzzle. In this way, the pieces depicted in FIGS. 4A-4F and 5A-5F may be used to implement a structure in accordance with the method outlined with reference to FIG. 3, or may be used as portions of a puzzle.

As shown in FIG. 5B, after the participant has positioned the content piece 400, the participant is questioned about the portion of the story just presented (Step 302) with a question presented on a second face of the question piece 500. As shown in FIGS. 5B and 5D, two potential answers are presented to the participant, and as shown in FIG. 5E, the participant is provided with directions to position the piece 500 based upon the answer selected by the participant (Step 304). Specifically, FIG. 5E shows arrows directing the participant to place the piece with the selected answer facing up. If the piece 500, as positioned, is stable (Step 306), and there are more pieces to be placed (Step 308), then Steps 300 through 304 are repeated. If the piece is unstable (Step 306), the Steps 302 and 304 are repeated until the piece is stable. Once there are no more pieces to be placed (Step 308), the final structure (e.g., structure 100) is presented to the participant (Step 310).

Referring next to FIG. 6, shown is a perspective view from an “assembly side” of a stable structure 600 positioned on a playing surface 602 assembled from content and question pieces 400, 500 of FIGS. 4 and 5 according to an exemplary embodiment. As shown, the structure 600 includes nine numbered pieces, and on the assembly side are directional arrows on the fifth face of both the content and question pieces 400, 500 described with reference to FIGS. 4E and 5E respectively. In this embodiment, the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth pieces are content pieces 400, and the second, fourth, sixth and eighth pieces are question pieces 500. Also shown with dotted lines are general locations on the pieces where instability features 610 may be implemented.

In the present embodiment, to arrive at the structure shown in FIG. 6, the participant places the pieces 400, 500 in accordance with the steps outlined with reference to FIG. 3 beginning with the first piece and ending with the ninth piece. In one embodiment, until the structure 600 is complete, the participant's view of the pieces 400, 500 is from the perspective of the assembly side, and when the structure 600 is complete, the participant views the opposite side, which shows the final picture and/or message.

As shown, the first piece in this embodiment is a content piece 400, and as such, the piece is simply placed in the prescribed manner (as indicated by the arrow on its face) by the participant on the playing surface 602 and there are no instability features 610 that affect its stability. Although the first piece includes a top instability feature 610A, the instability feature 610A in the first piece of this embodiment is utilized to interact with the instability features 610F-G of the fourth piece and is not implicated in play until the fourth piece, a question piece 500, is placed in what eventually becomes the structure 600.

The third and fifth pieces are similar to the first piece in that they are content pieces 400 that are simply positioned according to their respective arrows and have respective instability features 610E, 610H that are not implicated until question pieces 500 (i.e., the sixth and eighth pieces) are positioned on top of them.

As shown, the second piece is a question piece 500, which includes top and bottom instability features 610B, 610C. As shown, the playing board 602 also includes an instability feature 610D, which is compatible with the bottom instability feature 610C of the second piece and incompatible with the top instability feature 610B of the second piece.

In this way, when the participant attempts to place the second piece with the top instability feature 610B facing the playing board instability feature 610D, the second piece is perceptibly unstable to the participant. On the other hand, when the user places the second piece with the bottom instability feature 610C facing the playing board 602, the second piece is perceptibly stable to the participant.

As shown, the fourth, sixth and eighth pieces, which are respectively positioned after the third, fifth and seventh content pieces 400, are question pieces 500, which are positioned according to the participant's answers. The instability features 610F,G,I,J,K,L of the fourth, sixth and eighth pieces, however, potentially interact with the top instability features 610A,E,H, of the first, third and fifth content pieces.

In the present embodiment, the seventh and ninth pieces are content pieces 400 that do not include instability features 610. As such, they are respectively placed on the fourth and sixth pieces with their respective arrows pointing up.

It should be recognized that FIGS. 2, 4 and 5 illustrate exemplary embodiments of the pieces 200, 400, 500 of the present invention. In other embodiments, the information presented on each of the faces of the pieces 200, 400, 500 shown in FIGS. 2, 4 and 5 may be presented in a variety of ways. The information may be consolidated so that one face, for example, combines what is shown on two faces of the pieces 200, 400, 500 in FIGS. 2, 4 and 5. As another example, a side with an instability feature 610 may have an illustration or text. As yet another example, additional information not shown in FIGS. 2, 4 and 5 may be added to one or more of the faces. Likewise, some information (e.g., a portion of a picture), may be removed from a piece 200, 400, 500 without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Referring next to FIGS. 7A and 7B, shown are perspective views of one embodiment of a piece 700 with a mechanical instability feature 702 as oriented when an answer is correct and incorrect, respectively. As shown in the exemplary embodiment, the instability feature 702 is a raised portion, which has a pyramidal shape. As shown in FIG. 7A, when a question is answered correctly, the participant is directed to place the raised portion in an upward direction and the piece is placed so an opposite end 704 from the raised portion rests in a stable manner with another piece or on the playing surface 602 (e.g., a table top or a game board).

When an answer is incorrect, the participant in the present embodiment is directed to place the piece 700 so the raised portion 702 is directed downward, as shown in FIG. 7B, against another surface; thus leaving the piece 700 in an unstable position. The raised portion, after an incorrect answer, for example, is placed against a face of another piece (e.g., a raised portion of another piece), or the playing surface 602.

Referring next to FIG. 8, shown is a perspective view of a piece 800 with a recessed portion 802 to accommodate the raised portion 702 of the piece 700 described with reference to FIGS. 7A and 7B. As shown, to accommodate the raised portion 702 of the piece 700, the piece 800 in the present embodiment has a recessed face 802 that accommodates the raised portion 702 (e.g., that accommodates a pyramidal shape). In this way, when the participant answers a question correctly, and the piece the participant is setting down is being set on another piece with a raised portion, the piece the participant is setting down will be stable when released.

Referring next to FIG. 9, shown is a perspective view of a piece 900 including instability features realized by magnets 902 in accordance with another embodiment of the pieces described with reference to FIGS. 2A through 2F and the second, fourth, sixth and eighth pieces in FIG. 6. As shown, the piece 900 includes a top magnet 902A located at a top face 904 of the piece 900 and a bottom magnet 902B located at a bottom face 906 of the piece 900.

The magnets 902A,B in the present embodiment are positioned such that an outward face of the top magnet 902A, labeled N, is the same polarity as an inward face of the bottom magnet 902B, also labeled N. Because opposing faces of the magnets have opposing polarity, the outward face of the bottom magnet 902B has a polarity that is opposite from the outward face of the top magnet 902A. Thus, a bottom face of another piece having magnets configured in the same way will be attracted to the top face of the piece 900, and a top face of another piece will be repelled by the top face of the piece 900.

In operation, when a user answers a question correctly, the participant will be directed to place the piece 900 so that the bottom face 906 of the piece 900 rests next to the top face of another piece (having magnets that are similarly configured). This placement results in the two pieces being attracted to each other. If the participant answers a question incorrectly, however, the participant will be directed to place a top face of the piece 900 onto a top face of another piece, which results in mutual repulsion between the pieces, and hence, instability. It should be recognized that the piece in FIG. 9 may be adapted to include only one magnet (e.g., to implement the first, third and fifth pieces of FIG. 6).

Referring next to FIGS. 10 and 11, shown are perspective views of a piece 1000 with a removable outer wrap 1002 that has been detached and attached respectively from a core 1004 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown, the outer wrap 1002 includes four faces 10061-4 that are coupled with hinge portions 10081-3 that allow the four faces 10061-4 of the outer wrap 1002 to cover four corresponding faces of the core 1004 by wrapping them around the core 1004 so that when in place, an extreme end 1010 of the fourth face 10064 is juxtaposed against an extreme end 1012 of the first face 10061. Advantageously, the architecture of this exemplary embodiment allows the content and/or questions on each piece 1000 to be changed by replacing the outer wrap 1002. In this way, the content presented to the participant may be changed so as to present the participant with new learning lessons and/or to prevent boredom.

In one embodiment for example, different sets of outer wraps may be developed to present a different lesson to the participant. For example and without limitation, different value-based sets of wraps may be developed with each set including content and questions to teach one or more of the following values: honesty, courage, responsibility, persistence, respectfulness and kindness.

The removable outer wrap 1002 may be made from a variety of materials including, but not limited to, plastic (e.g., polypropylene), cardboard or wood, but plastic is typically preferred because it is relatively inexpensive, strong and is not as prone to splintering as wood, for example. As one of ordinary skill will appreciate, the outer wrap 1002 may be detachably coupled to the core 1004 in a variety of ways including hook-and-loop type fasteners, snaps, friction coupling and combinations thereof.

Also shown in FIG. 10 are end blocks 10221, 2 that may include graphical and/or textual information. In one embodiment for example, the end blocks 10221, 2 are utilized to present the fifth and sixth faces of both the content and question pieces 400, 500 described with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5.

Referring next to FIG. 12, shown is a perspective view of a content wrap 1200 that may be used to implement sides one through four of the content piece 400 of FIGS. 4A-4F. In the exemplary embodiment, the content wrap 1200 is an adaptation of the outer wrap 1002, which includes a graphic on a first face 12021, story content (e.g., a portion of a hypothetical situation) on a second face 12022, a graphic related to the story content on a third face 12023, and a portion of a puzzle on a fourth face 12024.

Referring to FIG. 13, shown is a perspective view of a question wrap 1300 that may be used to implement sides one through four of the question piece 500 described with reference to FIGS. 5A through 5F. As shown, the four faces 13021-4 of the content wrap 1300 correspond to the four faces described with reference to FIGS. 5A to 5D.

Referring next to FIG. 14 shown is a perspective view of a piece 1400, which incorporates a magnet 1430 to realize an instability feature in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. For purposes of illustration, the piece 1400 is shown separated into an outer wrap 1402 and a core 1404. In the present embodiment, the core 1404 includes an inner wrap 1420, which is positioned between two end blocks 1422. As shown, a first face 1424 of the inner wrap 1420 includes two locator pins 1426 and a second face 1428 includes the magnet 1430, which is partially embedded so that an exposed portion extends above the surface of the second face 1428.

The outer wrap 1402 in the exemplary embodiment includes two locator holes 1406 on a first face 1408, to receive the two locator pins 1426 when the first face 1408, of the outer wrap 1402 is placed on the first face 1424 of the inner wrap 1420. The locator pins 1426 assist the proper placement and coupling of the outer wrap 1402 to the inner wrap 1420 of the core 1404.

In addition, a second face 14082 of the outer wrap 1402 includes a recessed portion 1410 on an inner surface to accommodate the exposed portion of the magnet 1430 when the second face 14082 of the outer wrap 1402 is placed over the second face 1428 of the inner wrap 1420. In one embodiment, the outer wrap 1402 and the end blocks 1422 are made of polypropylene and the inner wrap 1420 is made of high impact polystyrene, but this is certainly not required, and one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the piece 1400 may be realized with a variety of materials. The magnet 1430 in the exemplary embodiment is a Nickel plated Neodymium Iron Boron (NdFeb) magnet, but it is contemplated that other varieties of magnets may be utilized instead.

Although the core 1404 depicted in FIG. 14 includes only one magnet 1430 (e.g., to implement the first, third and fifth pieces of the structure 600 of FIG. 6), it should be recognized that it is adaptable so as to include another magnet on a fourth face (not shown) of the inner wrap 1420 opposite the second face 1428 (e.g., to implement the second, fourth, sixth and eight pieces of the structure 600 of FIG. 6). The outer wrap 1402 is also readily adaptable so as to include a second recessed portion positioned on a fourth face 14084 of the outer wrap 1402 to receive the second magnet.

Referring next to FIG. 15, shown is a side view of the core of FIG. 14 with the core 1404 positioned such that the second face 1428 (not shown) of the core 1404 and the second face 14082 of the outer wrap 1402 face an upwardly direction. As shown, the outer wrap 1402 is in an affixed position surrounding the core 1404 so that the top surface of the second face 14082 is covering the magnet 1430 (not shown) and is flush with a top surface 1500 of the end blocks 1422.

FIG. 16 is a cut-a-way view taken along line 16-16 in FIG. 15 illustrating the positioning of the magnet 1430 relative to the recessed portion 1410 of the outer wrap 1402 and the inner wrap 1420. As shown, the magnet 1430 is partially embedded in the inner wrap 1420 so that a portion of the magnet 1430 extends into the recessed portion 1410 of the outer wrap 1402. As shown in FIG. 16, the recessed portion 1410 has a depth, which is substantially the same as the portion of the magnet 1420 that extends above the surface of the core. In addition, the thickness of the outer wrap 1402 in the recessed portion above the magnet 1430 is thinner than other portions of the outer wrap. In this way, the magnet 1430 is positioned closer, and hence, imparts a stronger magnetic field, to the outer surface 1602 of the outer wrap so as to interact (i.e., attract or repel) with a magnet in another piece placed on top of the piece 1400.

Referring next to FIG. 17, shown is a perspective view of another embodiment of the core of FIG. 10 including magnets 1702 embedded within end blocks 1704 of the core 1700. As shown, the magnets 1702 are positioned so as to be in close proximity with magnets similarly located in end blocks of another piece when placed on the other piece.

Referring next to FIG. 18, shown is a playing surface 1800 configured to support pieces 200, 400, 500 of structures 100, 600 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown, the playing surface 1800 includes three positions for receiving three corresponding pieces (e.g., the first, second and third pieces of structure 600 shown in FIG. 6). Within the second position are shown potential locations for instability features (e.g., to interact with the instability features 610B,C of the second piece of FIG. 6).

As shown, a mechanical instability feature 1805 may be placed on the playing surface 1800 to impart instability upon the piece 700 described with reference to FIGS. 7A and 7B. Alternatively, a magnet may be positioned at location 1820 so as to impart instability upon the piece 1400 described with reference to FIG. 14. In yet an alternative embodiment, magnets may be positioned at locations 1810 to impart instability upon the piece 1700 described with reference to FIG. 17.

Referring next to FIG. 19, shown is a perspective view of an embodiment of a piece of FIG. 1 implemented as an electronic piece 1900. In the present embodiment, the electronic piece 1900 includes an electronic display 1902 on a first face 1904 for displaying a portion of an idea conveyed to a participant. In one embodiment, the electronic display is a liquid crystal display (LCD), but other types of displays may be used as well.

In some embodiments, every piece 1900 within a resulting structure includes an electronic display, but this is certainly not required, and although a single display 1902 is shown in the present embodiment, it is contemplated that an electronic piece may have two displays, e.g., one display to present a portion of a message and another display to present a portion of a picture.

Advantageously, one display (e.g., the display 1902) may be used for presenting a portion of a story, then presenting a question for the participant, and subsequently, a portion of either a message or a picture after the piece is placed among other pieces.

Referring next to FIG. 20, shown is a cut-a-way view taken along line 2020 in FIG. 19 illustrating display control circuitry on the inside of the piece according to one embodiment. As shown, in this embodiment an input portion 2002 is coupled to a CPU 2004. The CPU 2004 is coupled to a display driver 2006 and a memory portion 2008, and the display driver 2006 is coupled to the electronic display 1902.

In operation, the electronic piece 1900 is programmable so that when it is part of a structure along with other pieces and/or electronic pieces, it presents a portion of a message and/or picture conveyed by the overall structure. Specifically, the memory 2008 includes display information for potentially hundreds of (portions of) messages and/or pictures. In one embodiment, the memory 2008 also includes portions of a corresponding story and questions for each stored message and picture.

In one embodiment, the participant is able to set each electronic piece so they are all associated to the same story by entering information via the input portion 2002. For example, the input portion 2002 may be a simple push button that allows the participant to select, by number displayed on the display, a particular story.

Once the participant selects a story, the participant then interacts with the electronic pieces in much the same way as the pieces described with reference to FIGS. 2, 3, 4 and 5. In one embodiment for example, each electronic piece 1900 is numbered and presented to the participant in a sequential order. The participant begins by selecting the first electronic piece, and makes an entry with the input portion 2002 to notify the piece to present a portion of the story to the participant. After the electronic piece presents a portion of the story on the electronic display, a question and potential answers are presented for the participant on the electronic display 1902.

Based on the participant's answer, the participant is provided instructions on how to place the electronic piece 1900. In some embodiments, the electronic piece 1900 notifies the participant via, e.g., the electronic display 1902 that the user made an incorrect response before the electronic piece 1900 directs the user to place the piece 1900. In other embodiments, the electronic piece 1900 has an instability feature, e.g., a raised portion or a magnet, and the participant is able to tell from the instability that their answer was incorrect.

After all the electronic pieces 1900 are placed to form a structure, the electronic pieces together as a whole present a message and/or a picture to the user.

Although the invention herein disclosed has been described by means of specific embodiments and applications thereof, numerous modifications and variations could be made thereto by those skilled in the art without departing from the principles of the invention.

In some embodiments for example, the faces of the piece are fixed and do not change. In these embodiments, the pieces may be made from wood, plastic or a composite of materials. In other embodiments, however, the content on the faces may be changed so that the pieces are able to present several different stories, questions and associated principles. In one of these embodiments for example, each piece is designed so one or more faces may be removed; thus allowing the stories to change along with the questions, message (e.g., lesson summary) and pictures. In one embodiment, e.g., the faces are removable by sliding the face out of grooves at edges of the piece.

Additionally, although the story in several embodiments has been described herein as being presented in a piecemeal fashion on a face of each piece, in other embodiments, the story is presented to the user with another source, e.g., a book, which has, e.g., a numbering system to associate portions of the story with each piece. In a similar manner, the other source, e.g, the book, may also have questions and directions indicating where each piece is to be placed based upon the participants answers.

It should also be recognized that, in other embodiments the shape of a resulting structure itself, after being assembled piece by piece, with the question and answer procedure described with reference to FIG. 3, conveys a message, e.g., a principle, to a participant. The structure itself, for example, may be an allegory for a virtue espoused by the story. In another embodiment, the final structure may be a representation of an aspect of a story, e.g., a castle, which is described in the story.

Furthermore, the structure in some embodiments lies flat on a surface, e.g. a game board, and in yet other embodiments, the pieces fit as part of an existing game board, which has a topology the pieces couple with.