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