March 17 2017 edition

In this week’s newsletter: The Kennedy Center launches games, the 6th annual National STEM Video Game Challenge opens, Dremel announces its new 3D VetSquad, word puzzle game Typeshift will have you reaching for the dictionary, and Oregon Trail’s creator speaks at GDC.

Thanks to Allen Brooks, Mike Cohen, Ed Metz, and Russ Shilling for contributing to the Level Up Report! Send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

Romeo and Juliet LARPThe Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge program has launched several games and an impressive tabletop role playing game system designed for use in the classroom. Try out their example tabletop RPG based on Lord of the Files, or the Live Action Role Play (LARP) based on Romeo and Juliet!

Educators are increasingly trying out VR in their classrooms, but due to cost and capabilities, it’s frequently just used for 360-degree video. How can we move to deeper engagement? EdSurge discussed in a pair of pieces: one on increasing interaction (using a Vive) and another on having students create the worlds they visit (using Google Cardboard).

Congratulations to Roblox on raising a $92 million investment round from Meritech Capital and Index Ventures to continue their growth through improving their tools and making creation simpler and more accessible. Haven’t tried Roblox lately? Check out this video.

CIA Senior Collection Analyst David Clopper used SXSW to showcase some of the board games the agency has created for use in training exercises. Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech jumped in to try them out, comparing them to popular board games such as Pandemic and Magic: The Gathering.

National STEM VG ChallengeDid you know the 2017 National STEM Video Game Challenge is under way? The sixth annual competition for motivating interest in STEM is now accepting student submissions of original video games and game design documents.

Strange Loop’s game Eco received some coverage by Wired UK: the intriguing Minecraft-meets-ecosystem-simulator game has received funding from the US Department of Education, and plans a launch in summer 2017. Check out the game’s latest trailer.

Southern California radio station KPCC looked into gender issues and math, interviewing Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. Research shows that in the U.S., both adults and older children believe math is a male activity. How early do girls decide math isn’t for them?

MXLab is a 53-foot hands-on mobile STEM lab for high schoolers. The Mobile eXploration Lab will soon begin touring Maryland schools with the goal of exciting students about STEM activities and careers. Sounds fun!

Reader Mike Cohen sends along news of a live webinar that will take place this Tuesday on using visuals and manipulatives to help students make sense of fractions. For more information on the neuroscience behind the techniques, check out this KQED MindShift piece on making fractions stick.

Coding and Making

Dremel 3D VetSquadDremel’s new “3D VetSquad” initiative trains unemployed and underemployed veterans for a career in tech. After a six-week course, the veterans will travel to schools to assist educators in setup and use of the Dremel Idea builder 3D printers. Funded through a grant from the VA Center of Innovation, America Makes, and

The Swedish government has introduced a new digital competence aspect to their national curriculum beginning in first grade. The new curriculum will introduce students to programming skills as well as the ability to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of news.

Congratulations to Makeblock, creator of STEM toys like blocks, drones, and robots, for their new $30 million round of funding! The investment was led by Evolution Media China and Shenzhen Capital Group.

CoderDojo is a loosely connected network of coding clubs around the world, providing informal learning opportunities for kids in 65 countries. Usually driven by techy parents and the passions of the students, the clubs are serious geeky fun! Learn more in this piece on the Hechinger Report.

Students at Gause Elementary in Camas, Washington are learning coding using Ozobots. The after-school Code Club teaches younger students early in the week, and older students later in the week: students can either draw paths for the tiny robots to follow or utilize the Blockly-based programming language.


TypeshiftTypeshift (iOS) – From the creator of SpellTower comes a new type of word game. Line up the letters to find words and solve clues! Video.

Bit City (iOS, Android) – It’s SimCity combined with a clicker game! Build up your 8-bit city by passing policies and leveling up buildings. Video.

Hocus (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) – Drag your marker to the goal along Escheresque paths in this brain-twisting puzzle game. Video.


Oregon Trail ClassicClassic Game Postmortem: Oregon Trail – At the recent Game Developers Conference 2017, Oregon Trail creator Don Rawitsch detailed the creation of this landmark educational game.

KOOV Play. Code. Create. – A connected coding and robotics kit, coming soon from Sony Global Entertainment. Looks like LEGO + electronics + Scratch. Fun! (Currently available in China and Japan.)

Why is algebra so hard? – What if we could use computer science education to make algebra easier to learn? Bootstrap is a coding curriculum designed to be taught alongside algebra. Learn more in this TEDx talk.

Rock Band… with rocks. – Looks like a fun Maker project. Why not make a rock band using rocks? And spinny things. Have to admit it sounds more like a pachinko parlor than a rock band. Still pretty amazing though!

CNN launches VR – A few weeks ago, CNN announced the launch of a VR channel. Check out this link to their first effort, a 360-degree video of running with the bulls in Pamplona.


NSTA National Conference – Annual conference for the National Science Teachers Association. Los Angeles, CA. March 30-April 2.
GamesBeat Summit – Game industry execs discuss the latest trends and opportunities. Berkeley, CA. May 1-2.
Construct3D – National conference on 3D printing in education. Durham, NC. May 5-7.
Scratch Day – Global network of events celebrating the Scratch programming environment! Worldwide. May 13-14.


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