White House CTO Announces Cooney Center Innovation Prizes at E3

June 17, 2010

 New York, June 17, 2010 – The winners  of  the inaugural Cooney Center Prizes for Innovation in Children’s Learning, an educational media innovation competition launched by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, were announced yesterday by Aneesh Chopra, White House Chief Technology Officer and Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, Sesame Workshop, at the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Games and Learning Summit held at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.  Project NOAH (Networked Organisms and Habitats) was selected as the winner in the Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning  In the Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning: Innovate with The Electric Company category, Jay Schiffman was named the winner for his entry The Electric Company Heroes.

Project NOAH (Networked Organisms and Habitats) is a mobile application which teaches children and youth to understand and appreciate nature and serves as a common technology platform for research groups to harness the power of citizen scientists around the globe. The project has a community hub on their website where users can view submissions, explore the species database and discuss findings. NOAH helps children master vital science and technology skills as they learn about local wildlife and contribute to a network of organizations that are working to catalog and preserve our planet’s biodiversity, including the Museum of Natural History and National Geographic Society. Project NOAH was created by Yasser Ansari, Martin Ceperley, Bruno Kruse and Peter Horvath of Networked Organisms, LLC.  The team recently graduated from the New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program.

The mobile application was also the inspiration for CrisisCommons’ Oil Reporter an open data initiative, launched in May, which is collecting and sharing information on local instances of distressed wildlife due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The literacy learning prize was awarded to the most innovative idea for a digital media experience that promotes literacy skills using Sesame Workshop’s revival of the iconic show The Electric Company.  The winning concept, The Electric Company Heroes, is an online game promoting literacy skills through role-play activities.  Players create their own avatar heroes that can interact with members of The Electric Company and play games testing their literacy skills in such areas as vocabulary, decoding and reading comprehension.  The point’s players earn for mastering literacy skills can then be traded for new superpowers for their avatar. Schiffman is the founder of Thinkativity, an award-winning maker of electronic learning toys.

The Project NOAH team received $50,000 towards prototype development and Schiffman received a $10,000 prize and will have the opportunity to collaborate with Sesame Workshop to produce his winning idea. They were selected by a distinguished jury that included Warren Buckleitner, Editor, Children’s Technology Review; Alan Gershenfeld, President and CEO, E-Line Ventures; Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, Sesame Workshop; Laird Malamed, Senior Vice President, Activision Blizzard; and Liz Perle, Editor-in-Chief, Common Sense Media. 

“Technology pioneers have proven that breakthrough ideas can change the world forever.  The prizes competition encourages young entrepreneurs to think big and to develop bold digital prototypes that may influence the future of learning. We are delighted that the inaugural winners and finalists produced innovations with real potential to make a positive difference in millions of children’s lives,” said Dr. Michael H. Levine, Executive Director of The Cooney Center.

Other entries selected as finalists that participated in a pitch competition before the judges were:

·        Motion Math: Mobile, Embodied Learning – a math skills game utilizing a mobile device’s tilt function, where players aim a bouncing ball containing a fraction to its correct position on a number line.  Created by Gabriel Adauto, Jacob Klein and Amrita Thakur, graduate students of the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Stanford University’s School of Education.

·        Mobile Technology as a Sustainable Literacy Education Option for the Underserved – a global network that uses mobile devices to provide literacy exposure to children in developing countries by encouraging story sharing. Created by Dr. Paul Kim, Neha Taleja, Melanee Grondah and Vallabhi Parikh of Seeds of Empowerment, the non-profit arm of XRI, a spin-off of the Stanford University School of Education.

·        Toontastic: A Global Storytelling Network for Kids, by Kids – a platform that enables children to learn about the world around them through the eyes of their peers through storytelling. Created by Andy Russell, Thushan Amarasiriwardena and Alex Fajkowski of Launchpad Toys.

The Cooney Center Prizes was powered by Idea Crossing’s Skild competition platform. 

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is an independent, non-profit research center that is fostering innovation in children’s learning through digital media.  The Cooney Center conducts and supports research, creates educational models and interactive media properties and builds cross-sector partnerships.  The Cooney Center is named for Sesame Workshop’s founder, who revolutionized television with the creation of Sesame Street. Core funding is provided by the generous support of Peter G. Peterson, Genius Products, Mattel, Inc., and Sesame Workshop.