In George Mason's NSF-funded ITEST program (a collaboration with the Institute of Urban Game Design), children in Washington, DC schools, primarily African-American, learn to create video games using a variety of game development tools including Maya, Virtools, Alice, GameMaker, and MissionMaker. The program is run on Saturdays throughout the year, and for four weeks during the summer months, for a total of about 150 instructional hours per year.
The goal of the program is to use the game design process to develop STEM knowledge, skills, and interests in populations that are underrepresented in STEM careers. Many researchers such as Grunwald Associates have found that underserved groups gravitate towards technology and actually show a disproportionate level of skill when compared to their majority peers (African-Americans and Hispanics are both overrepresented among kids defined as technology influencers, for example). These interests and skills bring kids to the program; the process of designing games, because it involves creating models and simulations of the physical world, compels these students to learn scientific principles and