Two All Girls Teams Win Top Honors in National STEM Video Game Competition; Both Teams from Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, NJ

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Two all-girl teams of 8th graders from Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton, NJ, are winners in the PBS KIDS Ready to Learn category of the National STEM Video Game Challenge. The five girls are the only females awarded prizes this year among 28 winners. Blind judging surprises Challenge organizers when both winning teams hail from same classroom at Stuart.

Two all-girl teams develop video games to win PBS KIDS category of National STEM Challenge

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Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, recognized for its bold and innovative approach to all-girls education, announced today that two teams of Stuart eighth grade girls are winners in the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge. Among 28 middle and high school student from across the U.S. selected as winners for their original game designs, the Stuart students are the only girls to receive prizes. Challenge organizers were surprised to learn through the blind judging process that two winning teams were from the same class in the same school.

The winning Stuart team members include: Julia Weingaertner, Sarah Lippman, Chloe Mario, Madeleine Lapuerta and Emma Froehlich.

Both teams were awarded prizes in the PBS KIDS Ready to Learn Category of the National STEM Video Game Challenge. This annual competition seeks to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. The competition is inspired by President Barack Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign to promote STEM education.

Seventeen games created by individuals and teams of students, in eight subcategories, were selected as winners of the Middle School and High School Categories from a group of more than 3700 entries.

The girls from Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart designed and programmed their video games as part of the required coursework in their Grade 8 Computer Science class with instructor Alicia Testa.

“In January when we started this project, the girls had no computer programming experience. They faced a steep learning curve from the beginning; not only did they rise to the occasion – they surpassed all expectations,” said Ms. Testa. “Working in groups of two or three, by the end of the trimester, 10 completed video games were submitted to the Challenge.”

“In addition to computer programming, this project required important 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, planning and problem solving,” said Dr. Patty L. Fagin, Head of School at Stuart. “Research tells us that these girl-centric skills are invaluable to careers in STEM fields; including developing video games, a field dominated by men.”

Dr. Fagin continued to say, “We are very proud of the work all eighth grade students put into the National STEM Challenge. In the end, they all realized that hard work and perseverance yields results. It is icing on the cake that not just one, but two all-girl Stuart teams received national recognition for their creativity and ingenuity.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Fagin, Stuart has focused on elevating STEM education, beginning at the earliest grades, to show girls that science, technology, engineering and math can be fun and can open doorways to countless opportunities. The School strives for every graduate to be comfortable and confident in basic STEM skills, or ready to pursue a career in a STEM field if she chooses. In November 2011 Stuart held the first meeting of its STEM Advisory Task Force made up of some of the nation’s leading thinkers to help conquer the so-called “girl gap” in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines.

Miss Weingaertner, of West Windsor, NJ, and Miss Lippman, of Pennington, NJ, worked together to design and create a video game called “Animal Inequities” which uses animated sharks and fish to teach the math concepts of greater than and less than.

Miss Lapuerta of Montgomery, NJ, Miss Mario, of Princeton, NJ, and Miss Froehlich, of Montgomery, NJ, developed “Math Racing Mania” in which players get to choose a cool racing car to drive through roads with the correct answers to math problems on the screen.

The Stuart students and their teacher Ms. Testa, traveled to Washington D.C. where they were honored Monday at an event sponsored by Microsoft at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Each winner was awarded an AMD based laptop computer, travel to and from Washington DC, and subscriptions to magazines. Each team will also be awarded $2,000 for their school which means Stuart will receive $4,000.

About Stuart: As the only all girls school in Princeton, New Jersey, Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart is uniquely positioned to provide an environment where girls put academics first, are willing and able to take risks, and explore every opportunity. Stuart offers a challenging and innovative curriculum, superb teaching, and individualized attention grounded in the Sacred Heart Goals. Celebrating 48 years, Stuart enrolls girls in Kindergarten – Grade 12 and has a co-ed Preschool and Junior Kindergarten program. Stuart is part of an international community of Sacred Heart schools and is an independent Catholic school that embraces students of all faiths and backgrounds, helping them to become accomplished and committed leaders with the confidence and passion for justice to transform the world. More at http://www.stuartschool.org.

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