We are fortunate enough at STEM Fuse to work with thousands of innovative schools and terrifically talented teachers across all 50 states (that was close New Mexico) and three foreign countries. For a guy who started STEM Fuse in 2010 at his kitchen table because he thought he was going to get fired from his “day job” (long story, I was in college admissions and recruitment for STEM related degrees and there were not enough students in local high schools interested in those fields to pull from – ouch!) Our growth has been very fun and rewarding to see. It has not been unexpected however. Common sense has to win once in a while.
Over just the past three years I can tell you first-hand the difference in thinking among educators and it is going to produce tremendous results for our students and our country – mark it down. In 2010 I used to hear from administrators, curriculum directors, teachers and parents that game design & development wasn’t a viable course. I heard lots of “the last thing we need are teenagers playing more video games” or “no way parents are going to like us adding that”. And yet at the very same time I was hearing about how tech-ed / CTE courses, budgets and teachers were getting cut because of lack of student interest. I knew that first hand too, I thought it was going to cost me a good job.
That always seemed off to me, hearing “we can’t attract and inspire students to pursue technology / STEM education” in same breath with “we can’t add a game design course because…”. Um what? Then MIT, Georgia Tech, UCLA & USC, Stanford, Cal Poly Tech and on and on and on started providing studies that should have shocked no one. Their conclusions, “games attract students and hold their attention”. Well, duh. Turns out games ARE THEE perfect tool to teach STEM.
What a difference a few years make. Now in 2013 education has mostly moved past the debate (I still hear form a few holdouts, come on in the water is warm!)as to whether games belong in education to now, how do we best implement games into education. For those skeptics reading this when I talk about game design & development courses I do not mean playing games. I mean designing, developing, programming, animating, engineering, testing and editing a complicated technical project that just happens to result in a video game. I mean some serious math, physics, designing, programming, project management skills being utilized. The exact skills that U.S. employers , along with the U.S. Department of Labor now say we need 3 MILLION more workers trained with. Did you catch that? We are right now short 3 MILLION workers who are trained in STEM areas. In this era of bubbles, bailouts, massive layoffs and the very worst stretch of unemployment since the Great Depression to have 3 million open jobs that we don’t have the properly trained workers for is unacceptable. Fact is we need to engage students, we need to inspire them and we need them to explore all facets and opportunities related to STEM. We need games.
Our 2013 game maker contest – Got Game? – is a terrific showcase as to what our students are capable of. In fact Google and checkout any game making competition 2013 and see for yourself what students are building. The game projects are usually completed in teams and usually from original ideas. It is not hard to imagine how all of those technical and soft skills can be applied to countless other jobs across multiple industries.
We need games. And we are now smart (and innovative) enough to know it.