May 6 2016 edition

Thanks to Ed Metz and Russ Shilling for sending contributions to this issue! Please forward us your news and favorites to the contact information shown at the bottom.

Be sure to join the Games for Change Industry Circle Google Hangout on May 10 with Amplify Games!

Games and Education

ABCmouse.comCongratulations to Age of Learning, creator of the popular site ABCmouse. The company recently raised $150 million on a $1 billion valuation from Iconiq Capital. Wow!

The winners of this year’s US Department of Education IES SBIR grants have been announced. There are many familiar names among the Phase I and Phase II award winners – Congratulations! We can’t wait to share information about your projects as they take shape.

NewSchools Ignite announced the winners of its Middle & High School Math Challenge, 15 companies developing math projects that address critical student needs. Winners receive grant funding and access to resources from NewSchools.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has hired Jim Shelton, former deputy secretary of the US Department of Education, to spearhead its education initiative. CZI is a family initiative of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, focusing on personalized learning and helping underserved communities. We’re great fans of Shelton here at Level Up – what an excellent choice!

Sea Hero QuestCNN covers Sea Hero Quest, a game from University College London and Alzheimer’s Research UK that is designed to gather data to help improve our understanding of dementia. The game requires you to exercise your spatial navigation skills so that a database of navigation skills can be developed – helping the researchers learn to identify the onset of dementia in others.

Crowdsource games also showed up in the Wall Street Journal last week. In a wide-ranging article, the newspaper discussed games like Eterna, Phylo, and Foldit, games that utilize human players to help conduct challenging scientific research.

Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up Research Project details how today’s students and teachers want to leverage digital tools for learning. This year’s report is out, and among other interesting data it highlights that 65% of K-2 teachers and 59% of grade 3-5 teachers are regularly using games within their classrooms.

Coding and Making

Infosys Foundation USAInfosys Foundation USA, the National Science Foundation, and have partnered up to launch the Computer Science for All Community Giving program, providing funds for professional development for up to 2000 grade 6-12 public school teachers seeking to learn computer science. Infosys Foundation will match funds donated to these teacher campaigns on Donors Choose, so be sure to check out the site!

Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, and a team of fellow female engineers and executives have launched an advocacy group named Project Include, focused on improving diversity in the technology industry. We’ve covered the diversity data of many tech companies in this report the past few years, so we’re excited to hear this development! Check out the resources on their site.

Congratulations to CodeCombat on landing a $2 million seed round for their game that helps teach kids to code. The game utilizes an engaging format that encourages students to learn text-based languages such as Python and JavaScript.

Two great takes last week on implementing makerspaces at schools: EdSurge highlighted the Albemarle County Public School system, where making started out in the school library and is now spreading out into the classrooms; and Edutopia had a new article from Kevin Jarrett, who has been chronicling his experience integrating making this year – his students are now working on their final projects, and Jarrett looked back at life with a new makerspace.

AppGameKitAppGameKit is a free development environment for building games on the Raspberry Pi. It looks pretty interesting, and integrates with the hardware’s GPIO pins for Pi-specific fun. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Congratulations to Project Lead the Way, whose AP CS Principles course has been formally endorsed by the College Board. It is one of a handful of AP CSP courses in development, and of course we’ll cover them all here!

KQED Mind/Shift had a wonderful piece last week about makerspaces as a platform to improve cultural awareness. The article covers a program run at the Boys and Girls Club in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley, and the process some of the facilitators went through, identifying their own unconscious biases. A very interesting read!

Steve Wozniak wrote an article to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BASIC programming language, describing how he built the Integer BASIC interpreter built into every Apple ][… in 4KB of memory!


Bubble Burst BernieBubble Burst Bernie (Web) – The Late Show with Stephen Colbert announced the first major web game of the US presidential election season, a bubble popping game starring Bernie Sanders! Video.

Sago Mini Robot Party (iOS) – We’re big fans of Sago Mini here at Casa Level Up — and when you add in robots you know you have a winner. Customize silly robots and then play with them! Video.

INKS (iOS) – A beautiful game that combines pinball-style gameplay with colorful bursts of paint. Create your own masterpiece with each new level! Video.

Now Escape (iOS, Android) – Touch the screen and drag your ship around, grabbing the stars while avoiding the constantly shifting landscape. A fast game! Video.

Sea Hero Quest (iOS, Android) – Help scientists fight dementia by playing this fun mobile game that keeps track of your spatial navigation abilities. Video.


FIRST RoboticsHighlights from the 2016 FIRST Championship – On April 27-30, more than 20,000 students traveled to St. Louis for the annual FIRST robotics competition. 20,000 students! Wow! What an amazing event. Check out this highlight reel, and then peruse the Official FIRST channel for more videos of the event.

Megaprocessor Integration #2 – Construction of the Megaprocessor is still underway! The Megaprocessor is a large-format replica of a microprocessor that exposes the inner workings via LEDs and visible data flow diagrams. More details available at the progress page.

Exciting Insights from Translating Sprint to JavaScript – This presentation from ViennaJS highlights the coding adventure of Norbert Kehrer, who began by examining the assembly language program of the arcade game Sprint.


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.
Serious Play Conference – Leadership conference for people who create serious game programs. Chapel Hill, NC. July 26-28.
DiGRA / Foundations of Digital Games – Research conference for game academics and educators. Dundee, Scotland. August 1-6.


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