Students from across the United States met with congressional leaders and the Obama administration to show STEM apps and games they’ve developed

Students present their apps and games in Washington, D.C. Credit: The author

To remain competitive and lead the global community in technology and innovation, the United States must continue to invest in its greatest asset—its youth. Many articles and reports suggest that America needs to place a greater emphasis on STEM education, and countless other commentary notes the lack of diversity in the field.

Given this enormous challenge, where should we begin?

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) may have found an innovative solution through the creation of the Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) Video Game Innovation Fellow, a prestigious award to encourage American minorities to pursue STEM fields.

On Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C., I had the privilege to meet with 20 student fellows, ages 15-25, selected for their video game and app prototypes that address social issues in their community. These future ed-tech leaders did a fantastic job of not only promoting STEM fields, but also dissuading the naysayers that the United States lacks innovation in education and technology. The fellows presented their projects to the Obama administration and will receive an innovation grant to help further develop their game or app.

Here are seven of the apps that really stood out.

The Abstraction of War

Marc Robert Wong, a 16-year-old fellow from San Francisco, developed a thoughtful game called The Abstraction of War, to challenge players about how technology often disconnects users from the human consequences of their actions. Wong aims to highlight how people often become “detached” to drone strikes because they are operated by a person sitting behind a computer screen. “This type of warfare can be related to cyberbullying,” he said, as many people using a computer do not always realize the emotional suffering caused to the other person on the screen.

(Next page: More youth STEM innovation)

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