April 15 2016 edition

Thanks to Tammie Schrader, Russ Shilling, and John Williamson for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Minecraft NYT MagazineThe New York Times Magazine published an impressive, long article on the phenomenon that it is Minecraft and how it is increasingly being used for education. The web site is quite dynamic, be sure to check out the site if you’ve read the print version! Accompanying the article is an amazing Minecraft world that you should go check out. You can find it by pointing your copy of Minecraft to nytmag.hypixel.net.

Microsoft announced that Minecraft: Education Edition will launch in an early access program form in June (after a Beta in May). First releases of the new education edition will run on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.

The last couple of weeks we’ve talked a lot about virtual reality with the launches of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But augmented reality is also evolving rapidly! VentureBeat wrote a nice article on CastAR and its impressive augmented reality glasses. The system includes glasses, a wand, and a play surface that multiple people can use simultaneously – giving each viewer a custom angle of the app or game as they interact. Video.

Asi Burak, CEO of Power Play and former President of Games for Change, talked with KPBS Midday Edition about video games and how they can be used as a force for positive change.

Last week we pointed you to 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, a game about the events in Iran that led to the overthrow of the Shah. Gamasutra talked with creator Navid Khonsari about the game, and the process of creating it so that the player feels responsibility and empathy.

SpeedometrySpeedometry is a science curriculum designed to teach students physics through the use of Hot Wheels cars. The program, sponsored by Mattel Children’s Foundation, has been tested in 59 classrooms in east Los Angeles. Students reported being “less bored” and also received higher test scores on a 20-question test at the end of the unit.

We’ve seen games used to help solve complex problems like protein folding. What about using games to help solve optimization problems in quantum physics? Researchers from Aarhus University built a game to explore the concept and some of the players beat the best currently-available algorithms. Published in the journal Nature.

This seems obvious, but recent research has shown that parents who play video games with their children are quite a bit more likely to accurately understand the risks and benefits of playing games. Negative attitudes and beliefs linking games to real-world violence were more prominent among adults with less exposure to actual games.

A survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center suggests that 50% of out-of-school instructors and a quarter of teachers never use digital games. The survey work follows earlier work that focused on infrastructure challenges at schools.

Coding and Making

White House Science FairThe annual White House Science Fair was held last week, highlighting amazing science projects from students across the United Sates. As part of the Science Fair, a number of companies and organizations made commitments to President Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative, including a $200 million investment from Oracle. (Wow!) Check the Fact Sheet from the event for more details.

Arduino on the Raspberry Pi? What? Yup, this past week saw a port of the Arduino IDE show up on the arduino.cc downloads page. Now you can use your low-cost Raspberry Pi computer to program your Arduino microcontroller! How great is that?

Intel launched the Intel RealSense Robotic Development Kit last week, a mini PC and 3D RealSense camera designed for low-cost robot and drone projects. The RealSense camera is capable of capturing image depth at VGA resolution.

Have you been looking for a great game to help you learn programming? Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow, surveyed a variety of programming games for a post on his impressive technical blog Coding Horror.

Google launched an overview site for their computer science education tools and programs. Whether you’re looking to learn computer science, help others learn, or are seeking grants to grow your own CS education programs, you’ll find something useful and valuable here.

STEMteachersNYCCongratulations to STEMteachersNYC on landing a two-year award from 100Kin10 to help identify ways to embed programming into physics and mathematics courses. The grant was one of ten awarded to New York state organizations by 100Kin10 to increase the reach and quality of engineering and computer science in schools.

EdWeek posted a list of nine great books and research studies that explore Maker education in K-12. Maker education in schools is a hot topic right now so this just might be some great weekend reading for you, as it is for me!

A new white paper from Techbridge pulls together best practices for teaching STEM skills to girls and minorities, including designing classrooms to support diversity, providing adequate mentors and role models, and ensuring that grants for STEM programs support design, testing, and failure.

Research from Pennsylvania State University found that differences in STEM knowledge are discernible in children even before they enter kindergarten. Secondly, these knowledge gaps strongly predict science achievement gaps in third grade. Wow! These results are reminiscent of the Thirty Million Words gap. Read the article for some tips for parents on how to bridge the gap.


Quantum MovesQuantum Moves (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) – Contribute to cutting-edge physics research by manipulating and moving atoms to help solve challenging quantum physics problems! Video.

Democracy 3: Africa (PC, Mac) – The popular political strategy game takes on the politics and economics of ten African nations in this update. Video.


LEGO Idea ConferenceRecap of the 2016 LEGO Idea Conference – The LEGO Foundation conference took place April 11-13 in Denmark. The link above takes you to the Day One recap. Check out the Day Two recap as well, and other videos on the LEGO Foundation page on Vimeo.

The mind behind Linux – Linus Torvalds is the creator of both the Linux kernel, and the popular Git source code management system. In this interview with TED Curator Chris Anderson, Torvalds discusses his view on coding and technology, and confesses that he is not a visionary, he’s an engineer!

Roblex VR Demo Promo – Popular user-generated game site Roblox is coming soon to the Oculus Rift!

Best Fiends: Apps For Earth – Developer Seriously is shipping special quests and characters for its game Best Fiends as part of the Apps for Earth effort with Apple, raising awareness of Earth Day and raising money for the World Wildlife Fund.


Sandbox@MIT – Leaders in media, toys, education, and nonprofits come together to explore play. Cambridge, MA. April 17-19.
Games and Media Summit – A day-long event at the Tribeca Film Festival, from Games for Change! New York, NY. April 18.
Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment. Worldwide. May 14.
XTech 2016 – The Experiential Technology & NeuroGaming Conference and Expo. San Francisco, CA. May 17-18.
National Week of Making – A US-wide celebration of all things Maker, June 17-23, with the National Maker Faire in Washington DC, June 18-19.
Games for Change – The 13th annual conference for using games for change. New York, NY. June 23-24.
Computer Science Teachers Association conference – CSTA’s annual conference for teachers. San Diego, CA. July 10-12.


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