PULLMAN – A Washington State University researcher who is helping create a science learning game called “You Make Me Sick” had a “You Make Me Happy” moment last week.

Matthew Marino learned that a video game he and partner Filament Games are developing won a $50,000 grand prize in the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
The competition was launched this year to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering and math learning by tapping into the passion of youth for playing and making video games. The winners were announced by Aneesh Chopra, United States Chief Technology Officer.

“You Make Me Sick!” the prototype of which can be played online, teaches children about the physical structure of bacteria and viruses, as well as how they are spread.

“I’ve been fortunate to participate in development of this game from concept to playable product,” said Marino, an assistant professor in the WSU College of Education. “Everyone I’ve worked with at Filament Games has a vested interest in enhancing STEM opportunities for all students, especially those who are at risk of learning failure and students with disabilities.
“It’s very rewarding to have the students so excited about the games,” he said.
Filament Games is based in Madison, Wis. Its developers Dan Norton and Dan White are named in the award announcement.
“Filament Games has tremendous experience developing games, and I am able to help them incorporate best-practice educational research into their games.” Marino said.
The game was piloted this winter with 500 students in classrooms across the country, from Washington to New Hampshire. The beta version will be revised this summer based on feedback from the pilot study, Marino said.
“You Make Me Sick!” is the first in a series of five games being developed as part of a 2.5-year $838,000 U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences grant. The games are designed to align with middle school life science curricular materials.
The next game to be released, “Prisoner of Echo,” was developed with funding from the National Science Foundation. It will be piloted in May.
“Next year we will follow several thousand students as they play the games in their science classrooms and compare what they’ve learned to what students who aren’t playing the games have learned,” said Marino.
As for the prize money, Marino said, the team doesn’t yet have plans for spending it.
“We’re just enjoying the moment. Many thanks to the teachers and students who helped us pilot ‘You Make Me Sick!’”
The National STEM Video Game Challenge gave awards to both youths and developers. In the youth category, awards went to 12 students from across the United State in grades five through 8. The competition was created with support by the AMD Foundation, Entertainment Software Association and Microsoft and implemented by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media.