Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

All posts tagged “STEM Challenge”

STEM Video Game Challenge: A Quick Start Guide

Author

Posted Nov. 25, 2015

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events

Tagged

As any experienced teacher knows, November and December are often months packed with activity, anticipation, and a dash of pure insanity. Then, after going home to spend time with family, we arrive back to school in January for  the midwinter blues. Let’s develop a plan to beat those blues right now by looking forward to the National STEM Video Game Challenge.

The fifth cycle of the National STEM Video Game Challenge, launching in 2016, opens on March 15th, and you can begin preparing your students any time. Whether you’re teaching a full on Computer Science course, like myself; using computer science in your Art, Math, Science, or Technology class; or conducting a STEM or STEAM focused after-school program, the National STEM Video Game Challenge is a good way to motivate your students to kick it up a notch.

Now, I understand that you may have little experience with the topic of game design or perhaps you just aren’t prepared to write a curriculum on the topic over your Holiday Break. So, in the Holiday Spirit, I’ve decided to provide you, my fellow teacher, with a “quick start guide”.

Step 1: Video Game Design 101

Let’s talk about game design. Your students may have extensive experience with Game Development via various popular programming environments, but the fine art of game design focuses on the following powerful 21st century concepts, including but not limited to:

Addison Joins the League

  • Designing systems
  • Designing for end-users
  • Creative problem-solving

These concepts are covered in more detail in the post, Designing Fun: There’s more to game design than programming. So, how do we get our students primed and ready to design a really coherent, engaging, and creative game for the National STEM Video Game Challenge? Here are some of my suggestions for class activities to get students thinking like game designers.

Addison Joins the League & the Apprenticeship Badge

Addison Joins the League, the introductory quest of Gamestar mechanic, is all about introducing students to the five elements of game design and how they work together as a system to create a satisfying and engaging end-user experience.

The Apprenticeship Badge, which can be earned in the Gamestar Mechanic workshop, provides a more in-depth study of what goes wrong in the game design process and how to solve those problems, again to improve the overall system and make better end-user experience.

Additional resources and activities.

If you’re looking for a more scaffolded class-wide cooperative learning experience, I highly recommend the materials at the Gamestar Mechanic learning guide, which provides a wealth of lesson plans and curriculum resources. There’s something here for just about everyone, so check it out.

Gamekit Beta

Not able to be online every day? Add in Gamekit Beta, which is like “Gamestar Mechanic unplugged”. There you’ll find activities that focus on concepts such as the balance of luck and strategy to create fun.

Step 2: Design your entries

Gamestar Mechanic typically has a challenge open right within the workshop that includes a special STEM Challenge template or a way for students to choose an existing game from their Workshop. Now, let’s look at some ways to set your students’ STEM challenge games apart from the rest.

Serious Game design

You may or may not be aware of the growing serious games movement. “A serious game or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The serious adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics” (Wikipedia).

Dr. Jane Mcgonigal talked at length about this in her famous 2010 TED Talk, Gaming can make a better world.  Today’s kids are often highly motivated to embrace making a positive difference in all kinds of social action and public service projects.

A good way to get some great content out of your students for the STEM challenge is to get them thinking of how they can make a game that is not only fun to play but also helping the player learn something valuable and even world changing. Here are some serious games made in Gamestar Mechanic as examples:

Finally, here are some lessons from Scholastic to help you level up your students’ game content.

Details details details.

Now that your students have learned the basics about how games use goals, rules, mechanics, components, and space in a balanced way to create flow, it’s time to give them one more trick to suck players (and the judges) in. This is the part that puts the STEAM in STEM. It’s time to talk about story.

Your students have likely been focusing on building their levels up to this point. Now it’s time to visit the game and level settings screens and add some context to this adventure. The game and level intro and win messages are a great place to begin to build a unifying story. Use the game intro and win messages to set up the context of your game in terms of exposition and resolution. What is the setting? Who is your main character? What is going on? This involves the player in the story of the game and gives them a reason to care. Then, as the story unfolds, remind students to use the level intro and win messages to cue each wrinkle in the larger narrative of the game. Each level should build on the unifying theme of the story, including finishing touches, like background & soundtrack. Students should be encouraged to tell the story with the 5 Elements – Don’t lose players by telling a story in cut screens that has nothing to do with the game they’re actually playing. The space, components, mechanics, goals, and rules should fit the story or the story should fit the space, components, mechanics, goals, & rules.

To give the game an epic scope, students can include elements like

  • A boss or two (Use a Boss sprite or Just beef up a sprite with the wrench tool)
  • Text message blocks to help unfold the story (get these from the message box challenge)
  • One or more levels that have an epic scope (aka: Multiple Screen Scrolling)

Step 3: Iteration Feedback Loop

The iteration feedback loop is a key part of the Game design process. In this case, it really helps to have a convenient way for your students to play each other’s games and provide feedback. I have my students post a copy of their game to Edmodo. You could use Google Classroom, Moodle, MyBigCampus, or whatever social / LMS space you have. Then students can go play their classmates’ games and give feedback in Game Alley. Make this an opening / warm-up activity or a closure activity each day, and each day focus on a specific aspect of the design. For example, “play a classmate’s game today and give him or her feedback on how the game space contributed to or detracted from the overall balance of the game”.

Share

We would love to hear about your experiences. Comment below with your successes, frustrations, questions, and any great ides you would like to share. Let’s make some great games this coming spring.

DFTBA

 

Guest Post – Kerri on the STEM Challenge

Author

Posted Mar. 25, 2013

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Guest Post

Tagged

Hey guys!

We’ve been doing a ton of traveling and game design workshops around the country to gear up for the National STEM Video Game Challenge.  Our guest blogger today, Kerri Schlottman, is E-Line Media’s VP of Business and Partnership Development and has been coordinating the efforts on making these workshops a success (and they have been).  Here’s Kerri to tell you more:

E-Line's Biz and Partnership Development Superstar

As you know, E-Line Media is a founding partner and co-presenter of the National STEM Video Game Challenge. This exciting Challenge encourages middle and high school youth to design their own games as a form of 21st century skill development and STEM learning – plus, making games is creative, fun and exciting, so what better way to encourage youth than by tapping into their natural passion for games! This year, the STEM Challenge received funding from the Hive NYC Learning Network and from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to hit the road and teach kids across the country how to design their own games.

We had no small feat – 30 workshops in just two months! We’re still in the swing of things and are working with an incredible group of museum and library educators across the country. Some of our partners for this amazing road trip include: American Museum of Natural History in NYC; Brooklyn Public Library; Orlando Public Library; Parmly Billings Library in Billings, MT (where over 50 kids showed up!); Hawkins County Library in Rogersville, TN; Museum of History & Industry in Seattle, WA; Sahara West Library in Las Vegas; Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI; Arizona Science Center in Phoenix; Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, WI; and Iridescent Science Studio in the Bronx – to name a few.

Each workshop introduces youth to core game mechanics, how to build balanced game systems, and the iterative design process. Participants have a chance to make non-digital games in small groups and to also get started building games with Gamestar Mechanic. Plus, plenty of play testing and feedback!

All of these fun workshops have been an effort to spread the word about the STEM Challenge and to expose youth to the huge educational benefits of game design. To learn more, visit the STEM Challenge site! Original games can be submitted through April 24.

Kids Teaching Kids (and Parents)

Author

Posted Feb. 12, 2013

CategoryGaming Community, Gaming Education

Tagged

Sometimes the hardest part about teaching game design workshops is simply getting the participants to focus.  When kids (or adults!) get started designing games, it’s often tricky to pull their attention back to the group for a discussion, reflection session, or to move on to the next activity.  Sometimes it’s also hard to get participants motivated to work with people they don’t know, or on a project that doesn’t immediately seem intriguing.  Well, I think we found the solution to those issues: have kids teach kids.

We are in the middle of a workshop series around the National STEM Video Game Challenge.  This past weekend I attended a workshop at the American Museum of Natural History here in NYC.  While I’m usually the one leading these workshops, this time the workshop series is being lead by a group of awesome high schoolers from Global Kids.  I worked with the Global Kids before, so I knew they were great, but I hadn’t seen them in the role of teacher.  Our participants this past weekend were mostly middle and elementary school kids and a few parents.  Watching the kids respond to their high school-aged teachers was really inspiring; they were curious, engaged and ready to participate.  There’s something about kids learning from other kids who are just a few years older that makes the participants feel connected to the content – they actually see in front of them the opportunity for themselves to grow into game design experts.  They know it’s possible for kids to be awesome game designers and digital leaders because there is proof right there in their teachers.

Another key piece of the puzzle were the few scattered parents in the workshop.  These parents were not pro gamers and so had to defer to the Global Kids for expert advice.  Watching adults be the students, and the students be the teachers was empowering for all parties.  Kids saw they could teach their parents, parents saw potential for their kids to be youth leaders, and youth leaders validated their expertise by successfully engaging and teaching both parents and kids.

Did I mention this was a six hour workshop?  Global Kids kept the energy high, the kids learning, and the atmosphere controlled the entire time.  Hats off to kids teaching kids!

National STEM Video Game Challenge: Celebrating Success

Author

Posted May. 23, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids

Tagged

An adventure game where your character moves around by manipulating the attractive and repulsive forces of the atom. A 3D battle against pathogens inside the human body. An early learning game starring a shark that teaches first graders about inequalities. They could be the latest releases from a premiere educational game studio, but these and 14 other incredible games were all made by students between the ages of 10 and 18: the winners of the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge Youth Prize.

On Monday, May 21, I had the pleasure of participating in the Challenge’s Celebration of Success where 28 youth game designers from around the country — out of a field of over 3,700 entries — were honored for their original game designs at an event held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC presented by Challenge Sponsor Microsoft.

IMG_6182

The youth winners began their visit with a VIP tour of the Smithsonian’s Art of Video Games exhibit where they got to see and play some of the most significant titles in the history of gaming. Then it was off to the auditorium where representatives from the game industry, government and the educational community — along with family and friends — recognized the designers for a job well done.

Challenge judge and game designer Sean Vesce of 20after1, who’s work includes titles like the Tomb Raider and Mech Warrior franchises, praised the designers’ work and talked about his own experience as a young game maker inspired by some of the great early Activision titles. Alex Games, Education Design Director at Microsoft also addressed the youth, telling them “You did something awesome! Making games, like anything good in life, takes a lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance and a lot of not giving up.” Dr. Games was followed by video congratulations to the winners from celebrity Challenge judge (and self-professed nerd) Zachary Levi of NBC’s Chuck.

Joining the sponsors and game industry professionals in praising the young designers were Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Jim McGovern as well as Cristin Dorgelo, Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Following the ceremony, several of the winners of had the opportunity to demo their games for the guests in attendance.

IMG_6536wlogo

You can meet the 2012 Youth Prize winners and see some of the amazing things they’re doing in this video. You can also check out the complete winners list here with footage of each of the winning games and even links to play a few online.

Youth Game Designers at the White House Science Fair

Author

Posted Feb. 08, 2012

CategoryChallenges and Contests, Events, Games by Kids

Tagged

IMG_2786

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 stemchallenge.org.

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

A Gaming Family

Author

Posted Dec. 15, 2011

CategoryGaming Community

Tagged

It’s always great to hear stories about families playing games (and playing Gamestar) together.  Our friends over at Science Buddies keep a blog where parents sometimes post on their adventures in science with their kids.  This week, a mom postedabout her sons and their growing interest in game design.  The family is tackling the STEM challenge together, exploring tools like ScratchGameMaker, and Gamestar Mechanic!

Here’s an excerpt about the kids’ experience with Gamestar:

I logged both of my kids in at Gamestar Mechanic one evening, just to see how they would respond to the interface—and to see if it really was as cool as it seemed like it might be. They sat side by side at different computers, each going through the story, and the excitement and enthusiasm was palpable. They loved it! As I moved around doing other things, I was hearing talk about “platform” games and “top down” games and “oh, I’m going to change the gravity this time!”

The whole post is very well-written and links to a number of resources.  Check it out here.

Design Challenges to Focus Student Effort

Author

Posted Nov. 23, 2011

CategoryChallenges and Contests

Tagged

Ever since we tested the earliest versions of Gamestar Mechanic, we’ve noticed that young designers create better games when they’ve got something to focus on.  Turn a student loose in the Gamestar Workshop with a full set of sprites and they’re likely to experiment and explore, but they’re also likely to hit a block where they aren’t sure what to do next.  As writing teachers have known forever, it is good to give students a prompt.

Right now, there are several national game design challenges open for entry, and they can be a great way to focus your students’ efforts – and there are some great prizes available for you as well as the student.  The National STEM Video Game Challenge opened on November 16, 2011 and runs through March 12, 2012 .  Although the STEM Challenge sounds like you have to make learning games, the theory behind the challenge is that making any game demands STEM-related skills.  Your students should make a fun game, first and foremost.  The Challenge Youth Prize is open to students in grades 5 – 12, but there is an adult prize too if you want to try your hand!  For more information, check out http://www.stemchallenge.org.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have been around for 88 years, giving talented young artists and writers recognition for their work and giving them an annual event on which to focus their work.  This will be the third year that the Awards have recognized Game Design as a category for art submissions, and it’s been great seeing games get some respect as an expressive medium.  The Awards are a big deal — the winners get to walk across the stage at Carnegie Hall to accept their awards, and many past honorees still prize their award pins.  The Art and Writing Awards deadlines vary by category and region, but video game submissions must be submitted or postmarked by January 9th.  See http://www.artandwriting.org/Awards for more specifics.

Both the Challenge and the Awards accept entries made in Gamestar Mechanic as well as other tools.  In fact, students can even submit game designs on paper, as long as they’re clear about how their designs would play and what the game would be like.  Whether they’re working on paper, in Gamestar, or coding in Actionscript by hand, we think design challenges are a great goal for students to work toward.

STEM Challenge Opens Today

Author

Posted Nov. 16, 2011

CategoryChallenges and Contests

Tagged

The National STEM Video Game Challenge opens TODAY!!! This challenge is inspired by President Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign, with a goal to motivate kids to take an interest in STEM learning by doing something they’re already passionate about – playing and making video games.

This year’s competition opens today, Nov 16, 2011, and closes March 12, 2012.  It features four challenge entry categories: middle school, high school, collegiate, and EDUCATORS.  That means that all you teachers have the opportunity not only to help your students design games for the challenge, but to enter your own designs as well! Make sure to check out the STEM challenge site for information on each challenge category, the game design platforms available, and prizes.

Want some inspiration? Watch the video of last year’s middle school winners:

I helped in the judging of the last year’s middle school level entries, and I was blown away by the creativity and skill shown in many of the hundreds of entries submitted.  This year, I’m sure, the competition will be even bigger and the games even more inspiring.  Can’t wait!