Students from across the U.S. met with congressional leaders and the Obama administration to showcase their STEM apps

Students present their apps and games in Washington, D.C. Credit: The author

A college student created an an interactive app that teaches human effects on the environment…Does this sound like American innovation is in decline?

Many reports suggest that the U.S. needs to place a greater emphasis on STEM education to remain competitive globally, and countless other commentary notes the lack of diversity in the field.

Given this enormous challenge, where should we begin? The answer seems to lie in awareness and public support.

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) may have found an innovative solution through the creation of the Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) Video Game Innovation Fellow, a prestigious award to encourage American minorities to pursue STEM fields.

On Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C., I had the privilege to meet with 20 student fellows, ages 15-25, selected for their video game and app prototypes that address social issues in their community. These future ed-tech leaders did a fantastic job of not only promoting STEM fields, but also dissuading the naysayers that the United States lacks innovation in education and technology. The fellows presented their projects to the Obama administration and will receive an innovation grant to help further develop their game or app.

Here are seven of the apps that really stood out:

The Abstraction of War

Marc Robert Wong, a 16-year-old fellow from San Francisco, developed a thoughtful game called The Abstraction of War, to challenge players about how technology often disconnects users from the human consequences of their actions. Wong aims to highlight how people often become “detached” to drone strikes because they are operated by a person sitting behind a computer screen. “This type of warfare can be related to cyberbullying,” he said, as many people using a computer do not always realize the emotional suffering caused to the other person on the screen.

(Next page: More youth STEM innovation)

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