The importance of promoting STEM education in Australia can’t be underestimated. The transition of the digital economy demands a larger focus on innovation and technological prowess – incorporating these types of skills, including coding, analytics and the language of digital business.

The rise of the internet of things and connected devices alone requires a working force trained in the ability to read statistics and extract meaningful information from them – especially as the amount of data populated for such activities continues to grow.

This importance is why PwC sponsored this year’s STEM Video Game Challenge. Organised by the Australian Council for Education Research, the objective of the STEM challenge is to encourage young people to create video games with a STEM theme, promoting the importance of education and training in science, technology, education and mathematics.

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Inspired by a similar challenge in the United States, the challenge was open to primary and high school aged children, with the finalists judged by a panel comprised of game developers and staff at PwC with deep experience in STEM.

As ACER Foundation Director Deirdre Jackson explains, the importance of this challenge is paramount:

“Among the most critical academic disciplines for success in a 21st century workforce are those involving STEM. These disciplines are increasingly digital, networked and rapidly changing, yet Australian students are becoming less engaged and falling significantly behind the rest of the world in terms of STEM learning.”

This is a crucial effort to encourage STEM activity among children, whom hold the key for innovation in the next century. As PwC research has explored, Australia’s innovative capabilities are falling behind.

The judging process took place in Melbourne, where a team made up of game developers, staff from ACER and PwC examined the different entries. The importance was placed on not only creating an engagement piece of interactive entertainment, but also the ability for that game to impart the importance of STEM in education. Overall, 550 school-aged Australians took part in the competition.

Many titles were of a high quality. Evolution Maze, from the Years 9 to 12 group challenge, encouraged players to learn about the process of natural selection, while Angle Rebound, from the Years 5 to 8 individual group, placed a high importance on understanding geometry.

The winners of the challenge were announced at the PAX Australia 2014 expo, where some of the games were also playable at the STEM Challenge stand:

The STEM Challenge stand was placed in the expo hall at PAX, where tens of thousands of people visited throughout the weekend of October 31 – November 2. Many attendees stopped to admire the games created by the competition’s entrants, and also heard more information about the STEM challenge and its importance in promoting the skills Australia needs for the future.

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As Deirdre Jackson said, the impressive and challenging gaming experiences show students “can be much more than consumers of video games”.

“The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge provides students with a real-world opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge in STEM, programming and game making to create games that are interactive, stimulating and meaningful.”

According to PwC research, 91% of Australian CEOs believe technology will be a major transforming trend for their businesses over the next year. Having a workforce which “starts with code” sets Australia for an innovative future – one in which students are encouraged to innovate and experiment with technological advancements.Such an education infrastructure sets Australia in a positive position for the 21st century.

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Registrations for the 2015 Australian STEM Video Game Challenge open in April 2015. For more information, visit www.stemgames.org.au.

 

Contributor

Kate Bennett Eriksson

Kate is PwC Australia’s head of innovation and disruption.

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