The winners of the inaugural Australian STEM Video Game Challenge - showcasing the talents of the next generation of game creators - have been announced.
More than 550 youngsters from across the country took part in the competition to design an original game based on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning theme.
The Year 5 to 12 students worked individually or in teams and used free platforms such as Gamestar Mechanic, Gamemaker, Kodu, MIT Scratch and Unity to transform their ideas into reality.
The winners were announced at the annual PAX Australia video game exhibition in Melbourne earlier this month. They are:
Years 5 to 8 individual: Matthew Crawford, Wynn Vale Primary School, Adelaide, for Angle Rebound
Years 5 to 8 group: Daniel Thomas, Kye Opie, Triyan Jha and Jeremy Pearson-Lemme, Hale School, Perth, for Physics Run
Years 9 to 12 individual: Mark Signorelli, Immanuel College, Adelaide, for Cubes and Dimensions
Years 9 to 12 group: Tessa Donaldson and Rhys Donaldson, All Souls St Gabriels School, Charters Towers, for Evolution Maze
Years 9 to 12 individual advanced: Jack Shayne, Bentley Park College, Cairns, for Jack’s Bricks
Years 9 to 12 group advanced, and the People's Choice Award: Liam McLachlan and Josh Caratelli, Elwood College, Melbourne, for Smog Game
An Australian Industry Group report (2013) suggests STEM skills are critical for national productivity and global competitiveness, but it warns 'Australia’s participation in STEM skills at secondary school and university are unacceptably low'.
The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge aims to boost participation in STEM subjects. It is coordinated by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and government, universities, corporate partners and game developers.
ACER Foundation Director Deirdre Jackson says the aim is to encourage students to engage with STEM by creating, rather than simply playing, video games.
One half of the winning team for the Years 9 to 12 advanced category and People's Choice Award, Josh Caratelli, says the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge was an opportunity not to be missed.
'When we were thinking about making [Smog Game], Liam and I spoke about this quite a while ago and then the STEM challenge came up. We thought it would be a great opportunity to match ... not just making a game, but teaching players STEM themes as well.
'I looked into it and thought 'How could Liam and I not enter this?'. So, I phoned Liam up and ... he goes 'Oh my god, we have to enter this!', and it went from there.'
He describes Smog Game as a reaction shooter aimed at nine- to 12-year-olds. '[It teaches] eco-systems and the benefit of removing say, for example, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and also just smog pollution.'
His advice for other students wanting to follow their passion in game design? 'I'd say just start making something. There's plenty of help out there on the internet ... even if you want to get in contact with me, just Google my name and say 'Hi, I need some help'.
'It's a very big and loving community, so asking for help is a good place to start. But also just start making games [using] Google/YouTube tutorials. It's also really important, I think, to start finding a partner if you're going to work in a team, because planning and actually having to work together, it's difficult sometimes, but the reward is so much better.
'If anyone is looking to enter [the STEM Video Game Challenge next year], just do it. Seriously, because you can't go wrong with it.'
Josh and Liam have decided to donate their $1000 prize back to Elwood College to create a STEM game development scholarship, with particular emphasis on encouraging under-represented groups, such as girls, into STEM-based subjects.
Registrations for the 2015 Australian STEM Video Game Challenge open in April 2015. For more information, click on the link.
Australian Industry Group (2013). Lifting our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Retrieved from http://www.aigroup.com.au/portal/binary/com.epicentric.contentmanagement.servlet.ContentDeliveryServlet/LIVE_CONTENT/Publications/Reports/2013/Ai_Group_Skills_Survey_2012-STEM_FINAL_PRINTED.pdf
How is your school engaging students in STEM subjects?