Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts from February, 2012

Gamestar at SXSW


Posted Feb. 24, 2012




Attention Texans and festival goers: SXSW is just a few short weeks away. The Gamestar team will be out in force at a couple of events around youth game design.

To start things off on Monday, March 5th, Katya and I will be hosting an introductory game design workshop for teachers featuring Gamestar Mechanic. The workshop is part of AMD’s Game On pre-conference event hosted by SXSWedu. The day will include a bunch of exciting events, including several other workshops featuring other great youth game making tools and programs. For more information and to register, check out this link.

After SXSWedu, I’ll be sticking around for SXSWInteractive to host E-Line Media’s interactive youth game making booth at Screenburn. The Screenburn Arcade features great content from the commercial games industry, but this year we’re letting kids create games at the festival, too. Our booth will feature walk-up workshops in game design for kids as well as showcases and live demos by Austin-area youth game designers. Screenburn is open from March 9-11 at the Palmer Events Center in Austin and, best of all, admission is free. For more information, check out our event page or this article from the Austinist.

Hope to see you there!

Game Design and Ecosystems


Posted Feb. 23, 2012

CategoryGaming Community


I’m constantly impressed by the work teachers are doing in their classes using Gamestar Mechanic. In Michigan, Mike Petty is working on a project that ties game design to learning about ecosystems. Even better, he’s documenting the process to share with other teachers! Check it out here.

You might recognize Mike from as one of the teachers whose lesson plan is featured on our teacher site. In his posts about his class’ project, Mike includes many more lessons and worksheets that he’s used with his students. The resources on his site link to activities in Gamestar, worksheets and journal prompts on games and ecosystems, and even a Glogster assignment on the Scientific method.

One of my favorite parts of Mike’s project is that he builds off of and links to the game design project site by Kevin Hodgson (featured in the blog previously). This is a super example of teachers sharing knowledge around game design and iterating and customization each other’s ideas. I know not every teacher is a gamer or game designer, but it’s interactions like these that make me excited about the prospect of all different kinds of teachers sharing knowledge to make game design work in their classrooms.

Mr. Gramlich and the GSM Experience


Posted Feb. 14, 2012

CategoryGaming Community


I’ve talked to a lot of teachers about their experiences using Gamestar in the classroom.  We’ve emailed, chatted, Skyped, called, and spoken in person.  I’ve read blog posts, comments, tweets, Edmodo and Facebook posts, and reviews.  Yet today was a first for me; I played a game by teacher describing his experience teaching Gamestar!

The GSM Experience is a quick and easy game, and, while it’s very funny, it touches on some important issues in the game design classroom.  Mr. Gramlich starts by tackling the problems of using Gamestar in schools:

Level 1 – get over technology hurdles

Level 2 – Try with all your might to get kids to read the instructions in games!

Level 3 – Watch kids make games that are supposedly “challenging,” but in essence provide a whole mess of enemies, but no real challenge or fun gameplay.

Level 4 – Play your kids’ games that are chalk full of sprites.  A crowded game doesn’t necessarily mean the “best game ever!”

Level 5 – After enduring the struggles of setting up technology, going over game protocol, and learning how to design games that don’t just rely on tons of enemy sprites, Mr. Gramlich gets to the very best part of using Gamestar in the classroom: playing awesome games that the students make.

This playable experience shows that with perseverance, teachers and kids really can get past the initial issues of using game design in the classroom to get to something that, in Mr. Gramlich’s words, “makes all the trouble worth it!”

Be a Healthivore: Make Healthy Living Games


Posted Feb. 10, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests



Games sometimes get a bad rap because of the stereotypical hard core gamer locked away in his basement for hours on end, never seeing the light of day. Our friends at Green Ribbon Schools have been using Gamestar for a while now and recently launched their own game design contest that turns this image on its ear by using game design to promote healthy living.

Green Ribbon Schools is an award program that recognizes schools participating in activities that promote and encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly learning environment. Their Healthivores Game Design Contest encourages students to design games that teach a healthy lesson. The contest website features an amazing range of resources ranging from videos to lesson plans to educational materials to help students and teachers get started in making their entries, even for folks who have never made a game or taught game design before. Students have the opportunity to win notebook computers for themselves, their teachers and their school for designing the best games.

The contest is open now through May 1, 2012. You can find out more at the contest website.

As followers of this blog know, we’ve found game design competitions to be a really effective way to engage and motivate students around the game design process, as well as to connect kids’ interest in game design with learning in other subject areas. It’s pretty neat to see others embracing this philosophy and putting together interesting and educational game design contests of their own.

Youth Game Designers at the White House Science Fair


Posted Feb. 08, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids



I think it was when we walked past the battery of TV cameras and photographers in the East Room that it hit me: these kids are being recognized at the White House… by the President… for designing video games!

As the leader of the Gamestar Mechanic team here at E-Line Media and coordinator of the National STEM Video Game Challenge Youth Prize, I had the pleasure of accompanying two of our 2010 winners as they participated in the White House Science Fair on February 7th.

Tuesday’s event was the second Science Fair to take place at the White House during President Obama’s administration and represents his commitment to recognizing outstanding student achievement. As the President put it in his remarks to the students

Now, it is fitting that this year’s fair is happening just two days after the Super Bowl… I’m looking forward to having the Giants here at the White House so we can celebrate their achievements.  But what I’ve also said — I’ve said this many times — is if we are recognizing athletic achievement, then we should also be recognizing academic achievement and science achievement.  If we invite the team that wins the Super Bowl to the White House, then we need to invite some science fair winners to the White House as well.

Over 100 youth from a variety of STEM-oriented competitions attended the event, and let me tell you: these are some impressive kids. From students designing improved football helmets to help prevent traumatic brain injuries to the youngster who invented a waste-free sugar packet that dissolves in water, the ingenuity displayed by these talented young people was something amazing.

Representing the STEM Challenge were Shireen Zaineb, now in 8th Grade, from Milwaukee, WI. Shireen designed her winning game using Gamestar Mechanic as part of her work in technology class at the Milwaukee Montessori School with teacher Sherri Dodd — one of our first Gamestar Mechanic educators!

Joining Shireen was Jasper Hugunin, also in 8th Grade, from Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, WA. Jasper coded his own game from scratch using Javascript. Jasper’s game is designed to teach the player introductory computer science concepts like writing code, logical reasoning and debugging as they lead a robot through a series of mazes.

Along with a select group of students attending the event, Jasper had the opportunity to exhibit his game for the other kids and dignitaries present. Hearing Jasper describe the thought process that went into designing his game — to the likes of astronauts, Senior Department of Education officials and even Bill Nye the Science Guy — really reinforced for me all of the reasons that we think game design is such a great activity for young people.

When we launched the STEM Challenge in 2010, we knew that designing a digital game has tremendous learning benefits. Two years later, through the support of our sponsors and outreach partners, it’s truly incredible for me to see the competition grow and the work of our students be recognized at the highest levels.

I managed to snag a few photos of the event, which you can see in this slide show. You can also see the full video of President Obama’s remarks here.

The 2012 edition of the STEM Challenge the Challenge is accepting entries from middle, high school and collegestudents, as well as educators, through March 12, 2012 at

Congratulations to Shireen, Jasper and all the amazing kids who participated in the White House Science Fair!