National STEM Video Game Challenge Launches Fifth Competition

Annual video game design competition fosters game-making skills as pathway to STEM learning, offers opportunities to win valuable prizes

New York, April 4, 2016 – The National STEM Video Game Challenge is open today for student submissions of original, playable video games and game design documents. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, E-Line Media, and founding sponsor the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) aim to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among youth by transforming their natural passions for playing video games into designing and creating their own. This year the STEM Challenge also welcomes its newest sponsor, the National Geographic Society, along with its supporting sponsors the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Grable Foundation.

The STEM Challenge is open to middle school and high school students in the U.S. in grades five through twelve. Students may enter as individuals or as teams of up to four members. Entries can be created using any game creation platform such as Gamestar Mechanic, Unity, GameMaker, and Scratch or as a written game design document. The deadline to submit entries is August 15, 2016. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000, as well as game design and educational software. Student winners will be invited to a special event at National Geographic in Washington, DC in November 2016.

“Video games inspire and improve the lives of millions of our nation’s students. We look forward to an outstanding competition and to experience remarkably innovative video games,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the U.S. video game industry. “We are also delighted to partner with National Geographic and its outstanding creative team and legacy of remarkable, mesmerizing entertainment content.”

Sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Nat Geo Explore is a new prize stream that invites students to bring the spirit of exploration to video game design. Winners will have their games or design documents featured on the National Geographic Education website, which reaches more than 1 million visitors a month.

“For more than 128 years, the National Geographic Society has been a pioneer in exploration and storytelling, and has educated future generations to be responsible global citizens. Our participation in the National STEM Video Game Challenge allows us to help kids create and explore through their inspiring game designs, and reemphasizes our commitment to education,” said Kathleen Schwille, vice president of curriculum at the National Geographic Society.

The STEM Challenge offers game design and mentoring workshops in approximately 20 cities across the nation for youth and mentors, featuring professional game designers and industry professionals as instructors. A full calendar of workshops and events along with submission rules, game development and design tools, and STEM resources for participants and mentors can be found on the STEM Challenge website.

The STEM Challenge was inspired by President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate Campaign.” Nearly 4,000 middle and high school youth participated in the 2014-15 competition. Previous winners have showcased their games at the White House Science Fair.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center investigates the potential of digital media to help children learn, and collaborates with educators, media producers, policymakers, and investors to put this research into action. An independent nonprofit organization, the Center addresses issues of digital equity and aims to strengthen connections between formal and informal learning environments. Learn more at

E-Line Media is a publisher of game-based learning products and services that engage, educate and empower, helping to prepare youth for lives and careers in the 21st century. E-Line works with leading foundations, academics, non-profits and government agencies to harness the power of games for learning, health and social impact. Find out more at

ESA offers a wide range of services to interactive entertainment software publishers, including conducting business and consumer research, providing legal and policy analysis and advocacy on First Amendment, intellectual property, and technology/e-commerce issues, managing a global content protection program, owning and operating E3 and representing video game industry interests in federal and state government relations. For more information, visit ESA’s website or follow us on Twitter at @RichatESA or @ESAGovAffairs.

Follow the National STEM Video Game Challenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Catherine Jhee
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center


Mark German
E-Line Media