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Student Winners Create Games for Learning

The second annual National STEM Video Game Challenge concluded on Tuesday with winners being honored at The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum in Washington, DC.

The second annual National STEM Video Game Challenge concluded on Tuesday with winners being honored at The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education Forum in Washington, DC.

Launched last fall in partnership with Digital Promise and with White House support, the Challenge has been an exciting and fun competition to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and to stimulate “systems thinking” in youth by encouraging them not just to play games but to create their own games for learning.

At an awards ceremony held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Monday, 28 middle- and high-school student winners from 11 states and the District of Columbia were lauded for their accomplishments and creativity.

From a bottle that battles gum en route to the recycling center to a fresh take on the traditional block challenge that requires players to maneuver objects around the screen, the winning projects – selected from more than 3700 entries – reflect both a wide range of interest in STEM topics and a grasp of methods for designing learning games. 

And who has a better understanding of the most effective ways to challenge and interest students in tackling STEM topics and systems thinking than the teachers who work with them every day? So this year, for the first time, educators were invited to submit designs for games to teach critical STEM skills, along with college and graduate students in game-design academic programs and the challenge’s core participants: 5th-through-12th graders. Three teachers from Georgia, Michigan, and California were honored on Tuesday at The Atlantic’s Forum for applying their classroom expertise to developing games that both educate and entertain, as were collegiate winners from Purdue and the College of the Redwoods and the 28 grade-school awardees. The winning games demonstrated a variety of approaches to teaching math—including a train, a cosmic chain, blocks, and bingo—as well as resource conservation.

OSTP’s Deputy Director for Policy Tom Kalil congratulated the students and teachers at Tuesday’s event for the “remarkable games” they had developed, and thanked the Challenge’s sponsors. “Well-designed video games can help students excel in STEM and have fun doing it,” he said.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge is anannual competition held by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media in partnership with a variety of corporate partner organizations.  For a fun video about the Challenge, visit

Cristin Dorgelo is Assistant Director for Grand Challenges in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy