U.S. ramps up efforts to improve STEM education

The new initiatives are part of Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign.
The new initiatives are part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

A grant program that challenges students to design their own video games is one of several new initiatives announced by President Obama Sept. 16 as part of a broad expansion of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign, which aims to spur students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The day before, Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve STEM education in the United States.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge competition, the first in a series of planned annual events, will be led by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media in partnership with sponsors Microsoft Corp., the AMD Foundation, and the Entertainment Software Association.

The video-game challenge features two competitions:

• The Youth Prize aims to engage middle school students (grades five through eight) in STEM by challenging them to design original video games. The program will be open to students from any U.S. school, with a special emphasis on reaching students in underserved urban and rural communities. The total prize pool will be $50,000. The winners will receive AMD-based laptops, game design books, and other tools to support their skill development. Cash prizes and educational software also will be awarded to the winning students’ sponsoring organization, with additional prize money for underserved communities.

• The Developer Prize challenges emerging and experienced game developers to design original games for young children (grades pre-K through four) that teach key STEM concepts and foster an interest in STEM subject areas. The program will feature a special prize for developers actively enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in the United States. Special emphasis will be placed on technologies that have high potential to reach underserved communities, such as games built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth. Developers will be competing for a grand prize of $50,000. Prizes of $25,000 also will be awarded to the top entry submitted at the collegiate level, as well as the top entry for reaching underserved communities.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge will accept entries from Oct. 12, 2010, through Jan. 5, 2011. Complete guidelines and details on how to enter are available at www.cooneycenterprizes.org and at www.stemchallenge.org/youthprize.

“Children of all ages are immersed in technology; today’s kids spend as much time with digital media as they do in school. With the need to make learning both more engaging and productive, we need some real game changers,” said Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “The Cooney Center and E-Line Media are delighted that national leaders in policy, practice, and philanthropy are investing in video games’ potential to help change the equation.”

The National STEM Video Game Challenge is just one of several initiatives the Obama administration is announcing to encourage students’ interested in STEM.

For a full list and detailed explanation of the new initiatives, click here.

The initiatives are part of Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign to raise American students to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.

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Change the Equation (CTEq), a new 501(c)3 nonprofit organization consisting of CEOs from 100 leading U.S. companies, is a response by the business community to the president’s “call to action” at the National Academy of Sciences in spring 2009.

It is the first and only STEM education group that brings so many corporate leaders together in collaboration with the White House, state governments, and the education and foundation communities, organizers said.

All of the new STEM initiatives announced Sept. 16 were created by, and are backed by, the companies that are part of CTEq, in partnership with public organizations.

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