Partnership To Promote STEM Education via Game Development

President Obama recently issued a national call to action to promote science literacy and to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. To this end, a partnership of industry groups and technology companies has formed to promote interest in STEM focusing on computer and video games--not playing them, but creating them. The group includes the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), Microsoft, and the non-profit MacArthur Foundation.

The partnership's goal in launching the competitions is twofold, explained Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, the trade association representing United States computer and video game publishers. "Computer and video games are one of the most effective ways to reach America's children and encourage them to stay interested in vital STEM principles," said Gallagher. But there is also a component of self-interest driving the partnership's members. "Our industry's lifeblood is the energy and innovation of new, emerging developers," Gallagher noted. "To create the next generation's epic titles and incredibly immersive storylines, we need America's youth to have strategic and analytic thinking skills along with complex problem solving abilities."

The group said it plans to launch two competitions:

Game Changers: A component of the MacArthur Foundation's 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition, an annual effort to advance innovative approaches to learning through games, social networks, and mobile devices, Game Changers seeks the creation of new experiences using an existing game, SCEA's LittleBigPlanet, that enhance STEM principles. As part of Game Changers, SCEA will donate 1,000 PlayStation 3 systems and copies of LittleBigPlanet to libraries and community-based organizations in low-income communities and make the winning levels available to game players at no cost.

STEM National Video Game Competition: A challenge to 4- to 16-year-olds to devise original ideas that can be developed into Web-executable, browser-based, STEM-related computer and video games. Winners will receive a combined $300,000 in prizes, and their games will be used in school and community settings. The competition will be spearheaded by ESA and ITI, and their member organizations will judge the entries and provide participants with mentorship and technical expertise. The partnership is expected to announce details of the competition, including eligibility and entry rules, in early 2010 on the ESA and ITI Web sites. Winners will be announced at the video game trade show E3 Expo in June.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.