National STEM Video Game Challenge Announces Winners of Fifth Annual Competition

New York, NY, November 14, 2016 –The National STEM Video Game Challenge announced today the winners of the 2016 competition. The 24 middle school and high school winners will be recognized at an award ceremony at National Geographic in Washington, DC, with top original video games and game design concepts selected in 18 categories from nearly 3,000 entries. Presented by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media, with founding sponsor the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the STEM Challenge aims to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among youth by transforming their natural passions for playing video games into designing and creating their own video games.

This year National Geographic honors game designs that feature the spirit of exploration. Winners in four Nat Geo Explore prize categories will have their games or design documents featured on the National Geographic Education website, which reaches more than 1 million visitors a month.

The STEM Challenge conducted nearly 60 game design workshops and events across the country in 2016. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has sponsored more than 20 workshops at libraries and museums nationwide for students and mentors. One of this year’s winners was inspired to begin her game design document at a workshop hosted by the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa, Florida. The Grable Foundation provided generous regional support in Pittsburgh, where the STEM Challenge facilitated 19 workshops and events that yielded four winners.

Each winner receives a cash prize of $1,000, as well as a subscription to Gamestar Mechanic from E-Line Media and Curiosity Boxes from Vsauce. STEM Challenge winners can also designate $2,000 to a school or non-profit organization as an institutional award recipient.

“The National STEM Video Game Challenge promotes vital new skills like coding and systems design that all young people will need to compete and collaborate in a digital and global world,” said Michael H. Levine, Executive Director, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “We are thrilled to honor these students and their outstanding games.”

The winners are:

Middle School (Grades 5-8)

Name — Location | Title — Category

Puja Chopade — Madison, Alabama | Save the World! — Game Design Document

Zane Godil — Beaverton, Oregon | Deep Space Mayhem — GameMaker

Caleb Koo — Galena, Ohio | Conquering the Underworld — Gamestar Mechanic

Georgia Martinez — Chicago, Illinois | Fractured Forest — Scratch

Elisha Azaria — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Alien AI Abduction — Unity

Ronan Boyarski — Locust Grove, Virginia | Hungry Black Hole — Open Platform

Jagdeep Bhatia — Green Brook, New Jersey | Reconstruct — Open Platform Team

Calvin Khiddee-Wu — Green Brook, New Jersey | Reconstruct — Open Platform Team

High School (Grades 9-12)

Name — Location | Title — Category

Kimberly Do — Plant City, Florida | Escape Velocity — Game Design Document

Brent VanZant — Los Alamitos, California | Orbit Arena — GameMaker

Lauren Thomas — Boise, Idaho | The Great Desert Escapade — Gamestar Mechanic

Samson Simhon — Aventura, Florida | Prism — Scratch

Angela He — Oakton, Virginia | Suppressed — Unity

Connor Shugg — Apex, North Carolina | Allegria — Open Platform

Chi Cheng Hsu — Cupertino, California | Radiant — Open Platform Team

Anthony Ma — Sunnyvale, California | Radiant — Open Platform Team

Mingze Shi — West Windsor, New Jersey | Radiant — Open Platform Team

Nat Geo Explore Prize

Name — Location | Title — Category

Nathan Kuravackal — Tacoma, Washington | Can’t Catch Me! — Game Design Document Middle School

Sanja Kirova — Portage, Indiana | Around the World — Game Design Document High School

Shrey Pandya — Exton, Pennsylvania | Outbreak: Cellular Warfare — Playable Game Middle School

Lucas Armand — Malvern, Pennsylvania | Outbreak: Cellular Warfare — Playable Game Middle School

Alexander Chen — Whippany, New Jersey | Sanctuary — Playable Game High School

Preston Lai — Whippany, New Jersey | Sanctuary — Playable Game High School

Jonathan Lin — Whippany, New Jersey | Sanctuary — Playable Game High School

For more information on each of the winners and their video game designs, please see and follow @stemchallenge on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge was inspired by President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate Campaign.”  Previous winners have showcased their games at the White House Science Fair, the Smithsonian Institution and Games for Change Festival.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center investigates the potential of digital media to help children learn, and collaborates with educators, media producers, policymakers and investors to put this research into action. An independent nonprofit organization, the Center addresses issues of digital equity and aims to strengthen connections between formal and informal learning environments. Learn more at

E-Line Media is a publisher of game-based learning products and services that engage, educate and empower, helping to prepare youth for lives and careers in the 21st century. E-Line works with leading foundations, academics, non-profits and government agencies to harness the power of games for learning, health and social impact. Find out more at


Mark German, E-Line Media

Catherine Jhee, Joan Ganz Cooney Center