September 30 2016 edition

In this week’s newsletter: Catching up with MINECON 2016, Mission: Admission, Melinda Gates advocates women in tech, the new Kano 2.0 devices, CodinGame for learning coding skills, and some great Most Likely to Succeed videos.

Thanks to Allen Brooks, Eric Haines, Yggy King, Russ Shilling, and Joe Shochet for contributions to this issue! You can send us your news and favorites by replying back to this newsletter or using the contact information shown at the bottom.

Games and Education

MINECON 2016Did you miss MINECON last week? You probably heard that the next big update to the Win10 and Pocket editions of Minecraft will include boss battles and the introduction of Add-Ons. Eric Haines, creator of the Mineways 3D printing tool and well-known 3D graphics expert, shared his impressions of the event. You can catch up with the livestream videos. Want to try Minecraft in VR? Head to a Microsoft Store near you.

Speaking of virtual reality, one of the XQ Super School winners is planning to use VR to build a virtual chemistry lab! Washington Leadership Academy will heavily incorporate the use of virtual reality into the school’s design. More and more schools are exploring VR and AR: in this piece on you can learn about AR/VR at Greenwood Elementary in Minnesota and the Poudre School District in Colorado.

Microsoft announced an interesting new Excel plugin targeted at education at last week’s Hack the Classroom event. Project Cordoba is a free Microsoft Garage project that allows you to stream and visualize data generated by sensors and physical computing devices.

Can games be used as part of a regimen to treat anxiety? A BBC article discusses how attention and anxiety influence each other, and point to a game used effectively in a study as part of Attention Bias Modification Training.

Mission AdmissionMission: Admission is a game developed by USC designed to teach student how to go through the process of applying for college. Played over the course of a week, students learn about the application process, scholarship deadlines, applying for financial aid, etc. Video.

The creators of Never Alone have formed a Seattle-based studio, Colabee, and are developing a new game based on a Ukranian play. Forest Song will be based on Lisova Pisnya, a children’s play in Ukraine that deals with the consequences of disrespecting nature.

The Cap Times summarizes a recent panel on game-based learning in Madison, with panelists from Filament, Acme Nerd Games, the Field Day Lab, and UW-Madison. Acme Nerd Games is working on a title called “Houston We Have Spinach”, focused on helping educate children about obesity. Sounded like a great event!

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing curriculum that introduces STEM principles in preschool. The Seeds of STEM initiative will create and test six units that introduce young children to problem-solving processes.

Carnegie Mellon recently completed a year-long survey on the use of ed-tech products at innovative school districts, in collaboration with Digital Promise and the Gates Foundation. Read this extensive report on improving ed-tech products through feedback!

The final Digital Media and Learning (DML) Competition awarded $700,000 to eleven projects that scale connected learning content. Read about the winners!

Getty Images is partnering with Washington STEM and the UK’s Your Life for a photography competition to highlight people of all ages and backgrounds doing STEM activities. There are some great prizes! Competition closes October 10.

Coding and Making

Melinda GatesMelinda Gates believes we need more women in tech in the United States. (Yes!) As a computer scientist and early employee of Microsoft, it’s personal, and she’s very aware of the statistics highlighting the poor gender diversity of today’s tech industry. In an excellent interview for Backchannel, Gates discusses her concerns and motivation.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last week initiating a three-year process to bring computer science to every grade in California public schools. There are already excellent efforts underway in San Francisco and Los Angeles!

New York City has reached the halfway mark on its private fundraising goal for computer science education, raising $20 million so far to help bring CS into public schools for its 1.1 million students.

Congratulations to codeSpark on its $4.1 million seed funding round! The company’s popular “The Foos” coding game is designed for kids 4 to 9 years old, and has been played by 4 million people to date.

The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences has opened applications for its WomenIn scholarship for aspiring female game developers. Winners will receive $2500 plus a year of mentoring and free passes to the DICE Summit. Applications due October 31.

Kano 2.0 devicesKano, the company that brought you a computer you can build yourself, has launched a new Kickstarter to expand their family of creative DIY tech kits. The new coding projects add impressive functionality: you can build a camera, speaker, or LED display! Video.

Do you wonder what the difference is between pixels and voxels? This mind-bogglingly thorough article for Retronator on Medium will teach you everything you need to know. Impressive.

Art Lopez is a computer science teacher at Sweetwater High School in San Diego, where 85% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2012, Lopez brought a computer science principles curriculum from UC San Diego to his school. Today, 80 students take CS at his school, and his district teaches 42 CS courses during the year! Lopez recently spoke about his experiences at the White House Summit on CS for All.

Esperas is a Seattle-area non-profit working to help people struggling with homelessness to launch technology careers. Working with General Assembly and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, the program’s first graduates are finishing General Assembly’s web development course this week!

Meet the winners of the National Wonder League Robotics Competition! Head Elementary’s K-5 robotics team “The Unconditionals” triumphed in a series of coding challenges from Wonder Workshop that attracted over 1100 teams around the United States. Video.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a new desktop environment for their single-board computers last week. PIXEL, a lightweight X-Windows environment, is prettier, friendlier, and easier to use. The latest builds also include a release of the Chromium browser plus an adblocker. What are you waiting for? Give it a try!


CodinGameCodinGame (Web) – Improve your coding skills by programming in-browser games! Works with popular programming languages like Javascript, Python, C++, and Ruby. Video.

NSTMF Lab (Web) – This interactive website from the National Science & Technology Medals Foundation illustrates principles of gravity, sound reverb, and image filtering. It’s a lot of fun to play with!

RPG Creator (iOS) – A streamlined version of the popular game creation kit RPG Maker is now available on mobile! You can create simple RPGs and share them with your friends, without the need for coding. Video.

Zip Zap (iOS, Android) – This simple and amusing mechanical puzzler will leave you seeing Erector Sets everywhere for days. In a good way. Video.

PBS KIDS You Choose (Web) – PBS KIDS launched a friendly website for kids to learn about the presidential election. Includes videos about voting and the presidency, campaign posters, and trading cards.


Most Likely to SucceedMost Likely to Succeed – The makers of the project-based learning movie Most Likely to Succeed have posted a series of bite-sized mini-documentaries, five minute chunks of the movie on particular topics. Great stuff here! Start with this one.

Multi-material 3D printing – For those exploring 3D printing, you may find this hack interesting: adding multiple filament steppers to your 3D printer so it can handle four materials at once! Wow, this is pretty great.

STEM in 6 Days – littleBits Design Challenge – Love this idea of a design challenge for kids. In this video, a group of middle school students research and build a product prototype together that meets the needs of younger children.

Beetle Juice – A Minecraft Roller Coaster – There are some amazing roller coaster rides in Minecraft out there on the Internet. This one with a Beetlejuice movie theme was highlighted at MINECON… amazing!

Porsche 911 GT3 RS – in LEGO – This one goes out to the LEGO and Technic fans out there. It’s a 2704 piece 1:8 scale model of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Who wants to build this with me?


Digital Media and Learning – Linking scholars and practitioners together for a discussion of theory, study, policy, and practice. Irvine, CA. October 5-7.
Intentional Play Summit – A full-day event on using games for learning and motivation, at the Computer History Museum. Mountain View, CA. October 7.
IndieCade Festival – The ninth annual festival and summit celebrating innovative independent games. Los Angeles, CA. October 14-16.
CHI PLAY – Interdisciplinary research conference focused on play, games, and human-computer interaction. Austin, TX. October 16-19.
Grace Hopper Celebration – The world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Houston, TX. October 19-21.
Meaningful Play – A conference on theory, research, and game design innovations for serious games. East Lansing, MI. October 20-22.
North American Simulation and Gaming Association – On using active learning to improve engagement, retention, and performance. Bloomington, IN. October 26-29.
Virtual Reality Developers Conference – Bringing together creators of immersive VR experiences to share best practices and technology demos. San Francisco, CA. November 2-3.
National Association for the Education of Young Children – The annual conference and expo is the largest gathering of early childhood professionals. Los Angeles, CA. November 2-5.
Education in Games Summit – Empowering teachers with new ideas for the Digital Technologies Curriculum through games and play. Melbourne, Australia. November 7.


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