Atlanta native Selah Thompson, 11, participated on a new national game show called “Innovators of Awesome”, hosted by KiwiCo, the brand bringing enriching and purposeful play to life with hands-on, kid-tested products and activities.
The show, launched Oct. 19, challenged Selah and two other young innovators (Nolan and Jaxon) to engineer hands-on, larger-than-life versions of iconic KiwiCo projects to compete for the chance to win a $25,000 scholarship and be able to name and create their own KiwiCo crate.
In four-part challenges, the three contestants had to work to solve a slimy escape challenge with a giant arcade claw, faced off in a ball-collecting mechanical sweeper-engineering challenge, engineered bottle rockets and protective pods for precious cargo (eggs), and finally create a chain reaction.
The last challenge aired on Nov. 2 where the winner of the show was announced and although Thompson didn’t win, she said she was grateful for the experience and had a lot of fun.
“To be on the show, it was a really cool experience, and it was fun,” she said. “Working as a team in the first challenge was fun and it was so suspenseful because I didn’t want to get orange slime on me. It felt like something special because only three people in the entire United States were selected and I was one of those people.”
Both Selah and Nolan were able to leave with $1,000 and each contestant was given 50 KiwiCo crates to be donated to each of their elementary schools to create with their friends.
She was first introduced to the brand by her late uncle, an engineer who bought her first KiwiCo crate. The first project sparked her interest in science and engineering and remains the catalyst behind her love for KiwiCo crates to this day.
Selah, getting emotional thinking about her uncle, said she believes he was watching her while she was on the show doing what he introduced her to.
Selah’s dad, Khalil Thompson, said it was a “full circle moment” for them both.
“I remember when she first got the KiwiCo crate when she was four years old, and she was so excited to get the crate. “It was a full-circle moment for her because in the first episode they had to build a giant version of the arcade claw,” he said. “It just made me smile because here we are years later, all the way across country, and when we first heard about the show, Selah told me she’d be perfect for it and she’s putting together a giant version of what her uncle gave her. I just want to tell him thank you for helping to fan the flames of excitement for engineering and science in her because we see it manifest on a grand scale today.”
Selah’s favorite part about competing on the show was being able to work with and make big KiwiCo crates instead of the ones she made at home. Additionally, Selah said she learned she can make friends quickly after bonding with Jaxon and Nolan on the show.
“Something I learned about me through the show was that I can make friends really quickly even though I thought I have to be around someone a really long time before I became friends with them, but I became friends with Jaxon and Nolan in like five hours,” she said.
In addition to her love of STEM, Selah is the co-author of two children’s books, and remains a fierce advocate for education. At just 11-years-old, she has led a Children’s March for Literacy and inspired her peers to write their own stories.
Leading, Selah said, is important especially at a young age.
“I’m pretty good at listening to people and if someone needs advice on something, maybe I can help with whatever they need help with,” she said. “When my dad told me about Innovators of Awesome, I had to keep reminding him to help me with the application because he kept forgetting, which is an example of taking action and being persistent.”
Additionally, Selah said in life she wants to do so much like be an astronaut, a professional volleyball player, get into drawing and painting, become a baker, and start a bakery, and to live in Paris.
Selah also passes along some advice to other kids who may not feel they can do big things in life.
“You’ll never know unless you try. You should try doing whatever it is that brings you happiness and they should try and do their best in whatever that is. Even if you don’t get to do exactly what you want, keep trying because you never know what you can do in the future,” she said.
Khalil said he is proud of his daughter for having the persistence and determination to make her dreams come true.
“From the beginning when I showed her the show, she said she would be perfect for it. She saw herself in this before I did and she was very persistent and made sure I followed through to help her do it,” he said. “I’m just so proud of her for having a vision and pushing to make sure her vision came to fruition and just being bold and brave enough to go out there on camera and record a TV show, I wouldn’t have been prepared to do that at her age, which I think she went out there and was amazing. I also felt I watched her grow up a little bit, which made me sad inside but made me smile at the same time because I got to watch her firsthand to build relationships and work well with other people, solve problems, and be her own independent little human.”
Lastly, Khalil said he wants to give a shoutout to KiwiCo and what they stand for.
“I think this whole experience has been fantastic,” he said. “I loved what KiwiCo has done and this whole idea around the show of making giant versions of their crates, I think it’s phenomenal and getting young curious innovators out there to figure out how to build things, I think is cool. Kudos to them for dreaming up a big dream and inspiring three little people to dream big enough to be a part of that big dream and see it come to fruition.”