No, this news isn’t remotely Canadian, but I feel that educators, studios, associations and our government should take note, because Canada needs a programme just like this one, and I believe the initiatives behind the American STEM Challenge closely mirror those currently being investigated through the Canada 3.0 Forum , Canada’s Digital Economy  and Teaching with Technology . There have been several weeks’ worth of talk shows about the state of the Canadian educational system on Vancouver’s talk radio station CKNW, and a programme such as the STEM Challenge is but one creative way of trying to improve what and how our children are taught. There are many, many worthy programmes in Canada dedicated to making education not only fun and relevant, but also to keeping up with technology; here is a way to unite all of these initiatives in ways that would not only benefit our children, but our economic future, and I feel this is worth further investigation.
President Obama announced today the launch of the National STEM Video Game Challenge  at a White House event as part of the national “Educate to Innovate ” campaign. The Challenge aims to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. The first annual competition is being held by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop  and E-Line Media  in partnership with sponsors AMD Foundation , Entertainment Software Association  and Microsoft . Founding outreach partners include the American Library Association , Boys & Girls Clubs of America , The International Game Developers Association  and BrainPOP .
“Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation,” said President Obama. “I applaud partners in the National STEM Video Game Challenge for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America’s leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The National STEM Video Game Challenge features two competitions:
* The Youth Prize  aims to engage middle school students (grades 5 through 8) in STEM learning by challenging them to design original video games. The Challenge will be open to students from any U.S. school with a special emphasis on reaching students in underserved urban and rural communities. The total prize pool will be $50,000. The winners will receive AMD-based laptops, game design books, and other tools to support their skill development. Cash prizes and educational software will also be awarded to the winning students’ sponsoring organization with additional prize money for underserved communities.
* The Developer Prize  challenges emerging and experienced game developers to design original games for young children (grades pre-K through 4) that teach key STEM concepts and foster an interest in STEM subject areas. The Challenge will feature a special prize for developers actively enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in the U.S. Special emphasis will be placed on technologies that have high potential to reach underserved communities, such as games built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth. Developers will be competing for a grand prize of $50,000. Two prizes of $25,000 each will be awarded to the top entry submitted on the collegiate level, as well as the top entry for reaching underserved communities.
The National STEM Video Game Challenge will accept entries from October 12, 2010 through January 5, 2011. Complete guidelines and details on how to enter are available at www.cooneycenterprizes.org  and at www.stemchallenge.org/youthprize .
“Children of all ages are immersed in technology—today’s kids spend as much time with digital media as they do in school. With the need to make learning both more engaging and productive we need some real game changers,” said Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “The National STEM Video Game Challenge will encourage entrepreneurs and students to develop bold designs to promote academic excellence. The Cooney Center and E Line Media are delighted that national leaders in policy, practice and philanthropy are investing in video games’ potential to help change the equation.”
”Video games are improving and advancing the way Americans are living, working and playing,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president of the ESA, the trade association that represents U.S. computer and video game publishers. “The acknowledgement and appreciation of President Obama, our partners in this campaign and leading child advocates, is a strong endorsement of the amazing potential and benefit that games can have on children.”
“Video game development is an exceptional learning experience for youth because it’s rooted in something they are already passionate about and allows learning to happen naturally,” said Allyson Peerman, corporate vice president of AMD Public Affairs and president, AMD Foundation. “AMD is proud to participate in the inaugural National STEM Video Game competition. The contest aligns with AMD’s signature education initiative, AMD Changing the Game, a program that encourages teens to learn valuable STEM skills and become more globally conscious citizens by developing games with social content.”
Game-based learning has emerged as one of the most promising areas of innovation in making critical STEM skills more engaging for America’s youth. Research has demonstrated that playing and making video games fosters the development of critical thinking and design skills, problem-solving and builds motivation for pursuing STEM related subjects and careers. The competition responds to major national educational challenges including inadequate skill levels in the workplace and an ever-widening achievement gap between the U.S. and other developed nations, especially in STEM skills.