Microsoft launched the Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge, a new competition that offers students as young as nine years old the chance to build a game with Kodu, a visual programming language. Microsoft collaborated with the Joan Gantz Cooney Center, an organization that studies how kids learn from and use digital media, and Mercy Corps, a nonprofit NGO that saves and improves lives during crisis, on this Challenge an effort to address the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills gap by helping more kids get excited about coding.
Due to the shortage of STEM graduates, careers including computer programming, software design and technology platform development may go unfilled in coming years. Microsoft created the Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge as part of the nationwide movement to change that trend; students who compete, will build videogames for Windows PCs with the Kodu platform, an easy to use game-creation toolkit and programming language available for free download and translated into a dozen languages. With nearly half a million downloads since its release and more than 16,000 kid-created games currently available for download, Kodu has proven an effective way to teach programming to young students.
According to the Cooney Center, game design holds promise to change the way students learn STEM subjects. “…The experience kids have creating their own video games with Kodu represents a strong, multidisciplinary approach to learning and skill development that harnesses kids’ natural love of play with creativity, technical abilities and a deep immersion in fascinating topics,” said Michael Levine, executive director of the Cooney Center.
The Kodu Challenge runs from March 19 through May 17, 2013. Students in two age brackets (9–12 and 13–18) will design games on the Kodu platform that explore the relationships between water and people through the medium of Kodu video games. While acquiring valuable skills such as critical thinking, storytelling and programming, students in both age brackets will compete for first-place prizes of US$3,000, second-place prizes of US$2,000 and third-place prizes of US$1,000.
To learn more about Imagine Cup, part of Microsoft YouthSpark, or the Kodu Challenge, you can read the full press release, or the Microsoft on the Issues blog.