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Obama's STEM Challenge Promotes Education Through Game Design

Obama's STEM Challenge Promotes Education Through Game Design

September 16, 2010 | By Kyle Orland

September 16, 2010 | By Kyle Orland
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President Obama today announced the launch of two video game design competitions designed to motivate student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge -- named for the four subjects that form its focus -- aims to encourage interest in these subjects "by tapping into students natural passions for playing and making video games," according to the announcement.

"Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America's role as the worlds engine of discovery and innovation," said President Obama. "I applaud partners in the National STEM Video Game Challenge for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening Americas leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math."

The Challenge consists of two separate competitions: a Youth Prize, aimed at games created by fifth through eighth graders, and a Developer Prize, aimed at game developers creating STEM-focused games for younger children.

For the Youth Prize, students may submit paper-based games or games designed in free design tools such as Gamemaker, Gamestar Mechanic and Scratch. Winning entries will receive prizes from a pool made up of $50K worth of laptops, game design books, and educational software.

The Developer Prize, on the other hand, asks "experienced game developers" to design games that get young children (pre-K through fourth grade) excited about STEM subject areas. The prize has a special focus on games which "have high potential to reach underserved communities, such as games built for basic mobile phone," and includes a special prize for games created by college students.

Winners of the Developer prize will split a prize pool worth $100,000.

Both prizes have drawn corporate support from many industry groups and companies, including the ESA, Microsoft, and AMD, as well as outside groups such as the American Library Association, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

"Video games are improving and advancing the way Americans are living, working and playing," said ESA President Michael Gallagher. "The acknowledgement and appreciation of President Obama, our partners in this campaign and leading child advocates, is a strong endorsement of the amazing potential and benefit that games can have on children."

The competitions are part of President Obama's larger "Educate to Innovate" campaign, which lends support to initiatives including robotics competitions, improved teacher education and an increased focus on AP courses for students in 100 high-need schools and communities.

Alongside the announcement, AMD also announced an expansion of its "Change the Game" initiative which will bring hands-on game development to 20 regions and 10,000 children over the next three years.

Entires for the Challenge will be accepted from October 12th through January 5th, 2011.


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