The GAMES Initiative (Girls Advancing Mathematics, Engineering and Science) uses the social and interactive powers of gaming to inspire middle school-aged girls to pursue their passions in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Founded by Northeastern University – Seattle, the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), and the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB), the specific initiative is to launch, by fall 2017, three free, commercial-quality video games that engage middle school girls in STEM fields. But GAMES is about much more than just those video games—it’s about what comes next.
It isn’t enough to rest on yesterday’s bold ideas and grand inventions. America as a nation must continue to push the boundaries of innovation in order to compete in the global economy. To do so requires a recommitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But by the time they enter high school, most middle school girls in America have lost interest in such fields, with less than 20% choosing a career in a STEM-related industry. This both drastically narrows the talent pool and deprives our brilliant middle school girls of opportunities for personal and professional success. Northeastern University – Seattle is committed to advancing STEM education through programs like GAMES and supporting the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
This is not the first effort of its kind, but this one promises to be different. Unlike a number of past efforts, this initiative proposes a realistic game development timeline and private funding sources to help ensure that the winning games are not just professional, but also scalable. A unique and innovative partnership between Northeastern University – Seattle, the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) provides the infrastructure for a network that connects industry, academia, government, and community-based organizations from across the nation. While GAMES doesn’t claim to be THE solution, it will be an important tool to affect change.
GAMES has brought together some of the nation’s brightest minds in education, technology, and gaming. The GAMES Initiative will move forward in concert with other existing STEM-related initiatives, adding a powerful new tool – the gaming medium – to the great STEM work of NGCP, ISB and dozens of other STEM leaders across the nation. The executive committee is being led by Tayloe Washburn, Dean and CEO of Northeastern University – Seattle; Dana Riley-Black, Director of the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB); and Karen Peterson, Principal Investigator of the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) and CEO of the EdLab group. Additionally, a diverse collection of volunteers working in research, fundraising, video game development, and networking are providing crucial support for GAMES as the program continues to grow.
GAMES launched in June 2013, hosting an event with over 200 in attendance. And the initiative continues to build on this momentum with nearly 100 partners already engaged. The program’s broad coalition of academics and industry experts is already hard at work researching, developing, and testing new ways that GAMES can impact and inspire middle school girls.
The next GAMES Initiative summit will occur on December 4, 2013 in conjunction with the National Girls Collaborative Project conference at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.