NEWS

Game Creators Have Designs on Making Learning Fun

February 07, 2011

UT Dallas Teams Enter Their Educational Video Games into National Contest

Two teams of Arts and Technology (ATEC) and Computer Science students from The University of Texas at Dallas have entered the first annual National STEM Video Game Challenge.

Could Playing Video Games at School Help Kids Learn More?
Dr. Tom Linehan, director of Arts and Technology (ATEC) at UT Dallas, discusses the possibilities of using electronic games in education in an intervew on the KERA-FM show Think.

Inspired by the “Educate to Innovate” campaign – President Barack Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education – the National STEM Video Game Challenge aims to motivate learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passions for playing and making video games.

Both UT Dallas teams entered into the Collegiate Prize division, which awards $25,000 to the top undergraduate or graduate game submission geared toward young children (grades pre-K through 4). The first team, comprising students Jainan Sankalia, Liz Paradis, Chris Camacho and Matthew Tackett, created “Mission Earth: The Search for Hamburgers.” In “Mission Earth,” players learn the scientific method by helping a cute alien, Gumpert, explore the planets.

“We entered because it seemed like a fun, unique challenge to tackle, with the potential for national recognition,” Sankalia said. “Our game is designed to help young kids learn the steps of the scientific method, a core mentality that applies across STEM fields, and to help kids cultivate a desire to learn more about space.”

The second team, made up of students Tony Wu, Adam Chandler, Michael Kaiser and Daniel Ries, created “Space Cadet,” a game that teaches kindergartners about basic math concepts such as length and height by launching rockets.

Space Cadet teaches kindergartners basic mathematical concepts such as length and height by launching rockets.

Wu said, “A chance to design games is always welcome.  Using space exploration as a background for our game and in-game learning objectives as the base concepts for learning, we hope to create a fun learning experience that doesn’t feel like learning.”

Dr. Monica Evans, assistant professor of game design at UT Dallas, said, “I’m thrilled that so many of our students, many of whom are working on educational or training game-based research projects, are able to take that experience and create their own educational games. I’m very proud of both teams and wish them both the best of luck.”