Gaining STEM Skills Via Video Games

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play video games. My parents subscribed to the “They’ll rot your brain!” theory. So I would sneak up the street and play on the neighbor’s Atari. The Rot You Brain theory, although still endorsed by my mother, is flawed, primarily because video games can be used as learning tools. There has been a rising awareness of, and interest in, gaming and how it can be combined with education.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has recognized that there are too few America graduates in the STEM fields. Someday, qualified people will be needed to fill government positions and what will the results be if those people don’t exist? One solution DARPA came up with was to partner with TopCoder, an online development community. TopCoder was tasked by DARPA to create a series of educational games that would be fun but also teach STEM skills. All of the games are hosted on NoNameSite.com, which is open for all 13-18 year olds in US and has an ongoing stream of contests and giveaways featured around their eight fun games.

At EDWorks, we’ve been partnering with TopCoder to bring these games to three of our schools. Over the course of a four week period, students at three EDWorks’ partner schools are competing in a series of online games with a STEM focus:

  • Alice in Booleanland
  • Brando the Egg Hunter Extraordinaire
  • Billiards
  • Into the Claw

An online leaderboard is updated daily so that students can see how they are ranking. Participating schools in this event are: Central Collegiate Academy in Detroit, Michigan; Encore: Arts, Communication and Design Academy at Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio; and the Health Science and Human Service Academy at Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

For the last week, students have been using boolean logic to help Alice and for the first several other weeks of May they’ll be playing video games. And throughout, everyone is learning STEM skills.

Where’s an Atari when you need one?

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