Video-Game Competitions Part of Obama's Science and Math Initiative

By November 23, 2009

Jack Thompson cannot be happy about this. As part of President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” program to advance U.S. science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, several contests to advance youth STEM education through video-game design have been launched. "There is no better way to engage and motivate youth then to reach them with familiar imagery and activities they deeply enjoy," said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council. A group composed of the MacArthur Foundation, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and Microsoft are behind the two competitions.

From a purely gaming point of view, “Game Changers,” the competition hosted by Sony, the MacArthur Foundation, ESA and ITI is the more interesting, as it builds on Playstation’s LittleBigPlanet, one of the most heralded games of the current generation of consoles, a game in which modding is integral to the experience.

Game Changers winners will be based on "criteria related to participatory learning, the support of learning related to science, technology, engineering and math, and the degree to which assessment of learning is integrated into the learning experience itself," according to the press release.

The other competition, the “STEM National Video Game Competition,” hosted by ESA, ITI, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Games for Change, and E-Line Ventures is for children 4-18 to create browser-based STEM related video games. Winners will receive a total of $300,000, and their games will be used in school and community settings throughtout the U.S.

Video games are seen are part of the way to interest students in STEM, as well as a way to teach necessary STEM skills.

“The talents kids learn playing education video games today--such as problem-solving, strategic-thinking, and flexibility--are the very types of talents these soon-to-be adults are going to need to be successful in the 21st Century," Garfield said.

Other campaigns in the president’s initiative are Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds,” Discovery Communications’ “Be the Future,” Sesame Street’s Early STEM Literacy Initiative and “National Lab Day."

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