PBS KIDS Stream

Part of the National STEM Video Game Challenge

About the PBS KIDS Stream

PBS KIDS, in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is participating in the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge, an annual competition to motivate interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning among America's youth by tapping into students' natural passion for playing and making video games. The contest is open to four different categories: Middle School students (5th grade – 8th grade), High School Students, College students and Teachers/Educators. Participants who wish to produce games as part of the PBS KIDS stream are encouraged to develop games for children ages 4-8 that focus on early math skills. This site is designed to provide information and resources to help guide game production. This project is part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, and funded by a grant from the U.S Department of Education.

Prize Awards within Each Category

  • Middle School can be a team up to 4 students
    • laptop computer, a three (3) year premium consumer subscription to GameStar Mechanic and a one (1) year family subscription to BrainPOP
    • Cash prize to school ($2,000, $3,000 if school is Title 1)
    • Featured on PBS KIDS Lab and PBS LearningMedia
  • High School can be a team up to 4 students
    • laptop computer, a three (3) year premium consumer subscription to GameStar Mechanic and a one (1) year family subscription to BrainPOP
    • Cash prize to school ($2,000, $3,000 if school is Title 1)
    • Featured on PBS KIDS Lab and PBS LearningMedia
  • College Prize can be a team up to 4; any platform
    • Prize is: $10,000 cash
    • Featured on PBS KIDS Lab and PBS LearningMedia
  • Teachers / Educators can be a team up to 4; any platform
    • Prize is: $10,000 cash
    • Featured on PBS KIDS Lab and PBS LearningMedia

Game Producer Videos

CloudKid

Meet CloudKid co-founder Dave Schlafman, and get a special behind-the-scenes introduction to this PBS KIDS game design studio!

Sesame Workshop

How do you know if your game is any good? Watch Sesame Workshop's Erica Branch-Ridley explain the testing and tweaking that goes into creating games like The Electric Company: Prankster Planet.

WGBH: Brainstorming Game Ideas

How do you come up with ideas for a cool game? Watch WGBH's Bill Shribman take you behind the scenes and see how PBS KIDS game ideas are created!

WGBH: Making Games Work

WGBH's Bill Shribman takes you deeper into the game making process...from developing to testing for bugs and much much more!

Sesame Workshop: Talking to Your Audience

Watch Erica Branch-Ridley talk about how to approach game making for different audiences and the importance it has for gamers to feel connected to your game.

How Video Games Get Made

Steps for Designing an Educational Game: How Do You Do It?

  1. Brainstorming: Explore and decide on your game idea through "brainstorming." (Think about the game's "story" and what you want to teach.)
  2. Creating a Game Plan: Create a game plan or "game spec" that includes the details of your game. (The number of levels, players, rules, etc.)
  3. Creating a Storyboard: Storyboard or "wireframe" your game so you can map out how it begins, where you're taking players, and how they finish or quit the game.
  4. Designing Elements: Design backgrounds and characters.
  5. Building the Game: Build or program the game using the game spec, storyboards, and design elements. (There are lots of programming languages and tools: Scratch, GameStar, Javascript, Actionscript etc.)
  6. User Testing: Test the game with the people you designed it for. Watch as they play for common points where they're confused or really excited and engaged.
  7. Bug Testing: Test the game for defects or things that are broken and on as many combinations of computers, devices, and browsers as possible. Test like you're trying to break the game and then fix the defects.
  8. Launching the Game: Launch the game by publishing it to your website or another portal (app stores or gaming websites).

The Project Team: Who Does What?

  1. Producer: A producer brings all the elements of production together and is responsible for enlisting talent (e.g. actors and artists), experts (e.g. educational advisers), and support (e.g. programmers) and putting them to work so that a final product can be realized.
  2. Advisor: An advisor brings specific knowledge to the project that you might not have. For example, if you're making a game about healthy eating, you could consider working with a nutritionist.
  3. Project Manager: A project manager is responsible for scheduling and creating and tracking the project budget. And, they develop timelines, so that things happen in the right order (you can't record character voices until you've written a script) and so that the project moves forward according to schedule.
  4. Developer/Programmer: A developer/programmer creates code for the game using a variety of tools and languages. They are responsible for making sure the game works.
  5. Designer: A designer can take on a lot of different roles — storyboarding, illustrating backgrounds and characters, designing buttons and other graphics in the game, etc.
  6. Animator: An animator is responsible for bringing the characters in a game to life. They usually need to be skilled in animation programs.
  7. Talent: This usually refers to voice actors. It's the person who speaks the scripted lines needed in a game to introduce it, give feedback to players, etc.

Math Framework

The Ready To Learn Math and Literacy Frameworks guide the development of all of our math and literacy content. The frameworks serve 3 purposes. First, they provide a detailed breakdown of math and literacy skills by age ranges for producers to work off of as they create their content. Second, the frameworks are a checks and balances system for PBS that helps us determine the skill gaps in our content. And lastly, the framework is the foundation for our multiplatform child progress tracking system. The frameworks were developed by PBS's curriculum advisor, as well as a team of early childhood math and literacy experts. This advisory team ranged from esteemed university professors to preschool and elementary school teachers, to professionals working specifically with low-income populations. The frameworks are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Math and English Language Arts for K through 2nd grade and incorporate the most current math and literacy research for preschool-aged children. Download the Math Framework (PDF).

Take Me to the Contest!

Making Educational Games: Webinar Downloads Now Available!

FAQs

What is the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge?
The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge (www.stemchallenge.org) invites game-creators to create video games that excite and educate users about science, technology, engineering and math.
What is the role of PBS KIDS in the STEM Video Game Challenge?
PBS KIDS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) have partnered with leading national education organizations to sponsor the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
When does the contest start and end?
The contest opens November 15, 2011 and ends March 12, 2012.
Who can enter?

The contest includes categories for middle school students, high school students, college students, and educators.

  • For middle and high school students, the contest aims to support high-level thinking and 21st century literacy skills that go into the development of a game, as well as the process of developing games.
  • For college students the focus is on creating games for children in grades pre-K through 8 to teach key STEM concepts and spark an interest in the field of game development.
  • For educators the focus is on creating games for children in grades pre-K through 12 to teach key STEM concepts and spark an interest in the field.
New this year is a special category stream designed by PBS KIDS.
PBS KIDS stream — any entrant may design a video game for children ages 4-8 that uses the math framework developed as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative.
What are the prizes?
Middle and high school winners will receive AMD-based laptops, game design software packages and other educational tools. Organizations that sponsor winning youth entrants will receive educational software and cash awards. Collegiate and educator winners will receive cash prizes (www.stemchallenge.org).
What technology can contestants use to create a game?
Game creators can use any game-making platform, including but not limited to Gamestar Mechanic, Kodu, Game Maker, or Scratch. More information about game-making platforms is available at www.stemchallenge.org/resources.
How do contestants submit an entry?
For detailed rules and information about how to submit entries, visit www.stemchallenge.org.
Why was this contest created?
The STEM Video Game Challenge first launched in 2010, inspired by President Obama's Educate to Innovate Campaign to spur interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
What does making video games have to do with STEM?

Research studies indicate that the process of making video games supports the development of critical STEM skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, iterative design, and digital media literacies.

The Ready To Learn Math and Literacy Frameworks guide the development of all of our math and literacy content. The frameworks serve 3 purposes. First, they provide a detailed breakdown of math and literacy skills by age ranges for producers to work off of as they create their content. Second, the frameworks are a checks and balances system for PBS that helps us determine the skill gaps in our content. And lastly, the framework is the foundation for our multiplatform child progress tracking system. The frameworks were developed by PBS's curriculum advisor, as well as a team of early childhood math and literacy experts. This advisory team ranged from esteemed university professors to preschool and elementary school teachers, to professionals working specifically with low-income populations. The frameworks are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Math and English Language Arts for Kindergarten through 2nd grade and incorporate the most current math and literacy research for preschool-aged children.