Students win hands down with Dragon

Three students who opted for production of their new Irish-language word game in Ireland, instead of China, were rewarded with a €2,000 bursary on RTÉ TV’s Junior Dragons’ Den.

Hundreds of orders have already been placed for the Focail Iontacha game, devised and designed by the girls from Regina Mundi College in the Cork suburb of Douglas.

Despite research showing they could have it made for around €5 per unit in China, they decided to have it made by a Dublin firm where the cost was over €9.

“We felt that having a game about the Irish language would be let down by having ‘Made in China’ on the box, and, in the current climate, everyone should be trying to support jobs in Ireland,” explained Jennifer Chadwick.

She and transition-year classmates Lauren Burke and Alex Whelan came up with the idea in business class last autumn, deciding to create something that would be useful in schools.

“We thought Irish was lacking fun resources so we decided on a card game. We spent a lot of time on the design, and we’ve gone through a few prototypes before placing our first order of 1,000 games,” explained Lauren.

Players are given an agreed number of cards, each with a letter or a fada on it, with different scores available for each letter and bonuses for fadas. The idea is to come up with as many words in Irish as possible with the cards given, and scores are based on the letters used, just as in the board game Scrabble.

The game comes in its own box with more than 150 cards, score sheets and a rule book in English and Irish. Jennifer and Alex explained to the dragons in last Sunday’s show the game will be of use not just in primary and second-level schools, but also to adult lovers of the language or as a gift for Irish people overseas. It can be played in cars as well as classrooms.

Barry O’Sullivan, one of the five dragons, also happens to be from Douglas and approved a €2,000 bursary for Focail Iontacha — wonderful words as gaeilge — on the first of two programmes in the current Dragons’ Den series to feature 20 of the best young ideas selected from around the country.

But rather than any geographical bias, he explained his approval was based on the value of the game in getting children interested in learning any subject.

The girls’ company was one of just four to be given the dragons’ approval but they have already had support from family as well as Foras na Gaeilge and others to get the venture out of the blocks.

Among the others emerging smiling after the show were 13-year-old Jordan Casey for his web-based role play game. He had donated 10% of sales of one of his earlier games to a local cancer respite service in Waterford.

Daniel Traas, 13, and Michael Barlow, 14, from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, won support for their fruity ice-cream and bursaries also went to Dublin teens Áine and Kaitlin Murray for their recyclable bags, and to 17-year-old Wicklow girl Ciara Whooley for her Irish Baubles company.

Another 10 junior companies will enter the den on next Sunday’s programme on RTÉ One TV, including Mercy Mounthawk, Tralee student Ciara Kelliher’s Food Wheel that promotes healthy eating among children.

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