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Micarelli’s game is serious business
Senior project becomes award-winning board game
As the Fall 2000 semester wound down, senior art major Paul Micarelli ’01 was busy working on his senior project—all aspects of an original board game including design, marketing and advertising. Four years after carving stone pieces with a handsaw in an empty Westby Hall art studio, his senior project is an award-winning massmarket product.

“My professor pushed me to take the project further and see it through to a finished piece to display at the senior show,” said Micarelli who, with that encouragement, decided to take the project even further. “I spent a lot of my free time in the basement of that house on Victoria Street sanding down soapstone. The seven guys I lived with would look at me like I was crazy.”

Crazy or not, his efforts paid off. Micarelli, 28, is the creator of Da Vinci’s Challenge, a board game that has won 10 major awards in the toy and game industry over the past year including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2006 Gold and Platinum Seals of Excellence as one of the best toys of the
year. The Platinum honor is viewed as the most prestigious award in the toy industry. The game, which first hit store shelves in April 2005, became one of five winners of the 2005 American MENSA Mind Games MENSA Select Award out of 51 games tested.

The game board features the Flower of Life, a symbol of overlapping circles that was considered a spiritual mandala in ancient times. Leonardo Da Vinci studied the Flower of Life to help him understand proportions and geometry for use in practical applications, thus the connection and the name for the game. The object is to build different patterns (ranging from a triangle to an hourglass) with the 144 oval- or circle-shaped game pieces.

Da Vinci’s Challenge was on display at the American International Toy Fair 2006 in New York City along with two new offerings—Da Vinci’s Challenge Mancala and a Da Vinci’s Challenge Card Game licensed by Briarpatch.

Micarelli continues to work his “9-to-5 job” as a graphic designer at Gecko Graphics in Williamstown. There, he designs toy and game packaging, stationery, folders and other projects. Gecko’s owners, Alan and Alice Gorney, hired Micarelli after being tipped off by a sculptor who had seen his work at the senior art show in Wilson Hall. Briarpatch was one of Gecko’s clients and became interested in the game.“When I came to Rowan, designing games was the last thing on my mind,” said Micarelli.

“I was accepted into the first class of the College of Engineering. Three semesters in, we were heavy into math and science and I made the switch to graphic design. Like most college students, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

“I look back, though, and I’m fortunate I went to Rowan and had that time in the College of engineering. I was able to work on that side of my brain. I have the science and logic aspects, but then in graphic design I got the art and creativity. It made me a better problem solver and I feel I have more tools under my belt in both a professional and creative aspect.”

—Mike Shute ’93


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