Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

How can I enter the STEM Challenge?

Enter the challenge by pressing the button on the top right of the STEM Challenge Website, or visit portal.stemchallenge.org

When does the entry period run?

The system will be open for entries beginning on February 7, 2017 and remain open for entries through May 1, 2017.

Who may enter the STEM Challenge?

The competition is open to US-based middle and high school students. Please review the Challenge Rules for detailed eligibility information.

What criteria are used to judge projects?

The STEM Challenge is a game design competition, and so our judges evaluate games based on three criteria, which are equally weighted in the judging process:

  • engaging gameplay: the extent to which the game keeps players fully engaged.
  • innovative/creative vision: the uniqueness of the game concept.
  • well-balanced game play: clarity of game play goals, balance of challenges and rewards, and feedback to the player.

For the Games for Change Prize, games also will be evaluated on the criteria of gameplay, creativity, and content. Please see the Challenge Rules for more information, as well as these short videos, which discuss the judging criteria and judging process.


I am older or younger than the grade levels or ages specified for the Middle or High School Categories. Can I still enter?

Unfortunately not. The Middle School Category is open to students in grades 5-8 during the 2016-17 school year (or home schooled students of equivalent age) only. The High School Category is open to students in grades 9-12 during the 2016-17 school year (or home schooled students of equivalent age) only.

I am a student at a Department of Defense/DoDEA overseas school. May I participate in the STEM Challenge?

Yes, as long as you meet the other eligibility requirements.

Can more than one student collaborate on a project?

Yes, but only in the team categories.

Only individuals may submit games to the individual Middle School and High School Categories. However, teams can collaborate on games and enter them into the special “Team” categories. For these streams, up to four individuals may submit a project together as a team, provided all team members meet the eligibility requirements. Please see the Challenge Rules for more information.

Can a team submit to one of the team categories if it includes both Middle School and High School members?

No. All members of a team must meet the eligibility requirements of either the Middle or High School categories. Your team cannot contain a mixture of Middle and High School members.

Can I submit more than one entry to the STEM Challenge? Can I submit an entry as an individual and another as a member of a team?

An individual can be part of only one project in the STEM Challenge. You may submit exactly one game as an individual or exactly one game as a member of a team but not both.

Do I need to do anything additional to submit my playable game for the Games for Change Prize?

If you want your playable game to be considered for the Games for Change Prize, you will need to identify the social impact goal of your game in the General Project Information Play Instructions text box as part of the STEM Challenge online submission process.

Game Project Questions

Which criteria define what you consider a game for purposes of the STEM Challenge?

Anything playable! But if you have a great idea but don’t know how to build it, you can still submit an entry to the “Game Design Document” category!

Our approach is based on the Cooney Center report, Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children’s Learning and Health, a game is defined as: “A voluntary activity structured by rules, with a defined outcome (winning, losing) or other quantifiable feedback (e.g., points) that facilitates reliable comparisons of in-player performances.”

I see that the STEM Challenge is called the National STEM Video Game Challenge. Does that mean I have to design an educational game or a game that includes Science, Technology, Engineering or Math content or themes?

Here at the STEM Challenge, we believe that the process of designing and making games itself creates a wonderful opportunity for STEM learning. You can make your game about anything you want!

It does not matter whether your game is about a STEM subject or even if is designed to be a ‘learning’ or ‘educational’ game. Making a good, fun, entertaining game with no STEM or learning content is just fine. That being said, we know many young designers, parents and teachers are interested in making games with STEM themes or specific learning goals, and so we’ve included lots of content on the STEM Challenge website about making those kinds of games for those interested in doing so.

However, if you wish your playable game to be eligible for the special Games for Change Prize, your game should help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.

Can I use Intellectual Property (e.g., ideas, characters, art, music, software libraries, etc.) in my game that I (or my team) did not personally create?

The concept and design of your game, characters and narrative (if present) must be your (or your teammates’) own original work and Intellectual Property — this means that they can’t be someone else’s.

You may incorporate third party IP (i.e. material created by someone other than you) in your game (for example art, music and software libraries) provided you can demonstrate that you have a legal right to incorporate the material. Please see the Challenge Rules for more information.

If I submit a game to the STEM Challenge, what will happen to my original Intellectual Property?

You will continue to own your IP and your work.

You grant us limited rights to use and display your project for STEM Challenge purposes. Please see the Challenge Rules for more information.

Game Making Questions

What tools can I use to make my game for the STEM Challenge?

Whatever you want!

Check out the resources section for information about lots of different game making tools. You’ll find everything from tools specifically designed for students who are new to game design all the way up to the things the pros use.

We also have categories for participants who want to create a written game design, but not a playable game.

Can I make my game using a tool other than the ones listed on the site?

Yes. If you use a tool other than the ones listed as specific categories, you can submit your game to the open platform category!

The game you make must be playable by our judges without having to purchase or install any special hardware or software. In general, any game that will play on a Windows or Macintosh computer, in a web browser or on an iOS or Android device is acceptable. Please consult the Challenge Rules for more information and Contact Us if you have any questions.