You are here



The results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that fifteen year-old U.S. students rank near the average in reading (17th) and science (20th) among the 34 highly developed countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The performance of U.S. students is below the international average (27th) in mathematics. These results are even more discouraging once it is realized that the U.S. also scored below a number of non-OECD member nations (the world’s poorer nations.) The mathematics scores of top-performing Shanghai, China are the equivalent of two full school years above those of Massachusetts (one of our top performing states). The poor standing of US students compared to their international peers has slightly improved since the 2009 PISA study. The PISA data show that socio-economic status explains about 15% of the student variation seen in the United States. While this is about average for the OECD members, there are nations that do significantly better at remediating the negative educational impact of poverty.

Serious games function as a bridge technology that converts gaming from a social pastime to a powerful educational tool that challenges students with game-based problem solving, conceptual reasoning and goal-oriented decisions. Well-designed educational games mimic successful teacher pedagogy and exploit student interest in gaming. Serious games also integrate imbedded learning, e.g., what the student knows and new information obtained in the gaming process, into problem solving skills. Serious games provide real time student assessment. Unlike standardized classroom testing where student achievement is a pass or fail process, well-designed educational gaming assessment is interactive, does not punish the student, and provides feedback on how to move to the next level of play. Serious games are intended to generate long-term changes in student performance, educational outcomes and career choices.

The objective of this FOA is to make STTR funding available to P-12 and ISE educators so that they may translate their classroom or science museum STEM curricula into serious STEM games ("STEM Games") with a biomedical focus that will complement Teacher professional development and improve student achievement, career aspirations and community health literacy. 

NIH supports and encourages emerging new educational technologies that will provide game-based STEM resources for students, teachers and the community. The science education research objective of this FOA is the development of new STEM gaming resources that will advance our understanding of  how STEM-based gaming can improve student learning.  It is anticipated that increasing underserved and minority student achievement in STEM fields through gaming will encourage these students to pursue health-related careers that will benefit their communities and increase their economic and social opportunities. 

It is important that the American public understands that their quality of health is defined by lifestyle habits. If this message is understood, people can begin to live longer and reduce the healthcare burden to society. Therefore, this FOA also encourages STEM Games that will stimulate behavioral changes towards a healthier lifestyle. 

This FOA is open to SBCs established by an individual or individuals with interests in health and medicine-based P-12 STEM or ISE projects.

Types of applications submitted to this FOA may vary with the target audience, scientific content, educational purpose and method of delivery.  STEM Games may include, but are not limited to: game-based curricula; attitudes changes towards learning; new skills development; teamwork and group activities; public participation in scientific research (citizen science) projects and behavioral changes in lifestyle and health. STEM Games designed to increase the diversity of students (i.e., American Indian, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islanders, African American, Hispanic, female, disabled, or otherwise underrepresented) considering careers in basic, behavioral or clinical research are especially encouraged.

STEM Games may be designed for use in classroom or out-of-classroom settings, e.g., as supplements to existing classroom curricula, for after school science clubs, libraries, hospital waiting rooms and science museums. STEM Games may target children in group settings or individually, with or without adult or Teacher participation or supervision.

The proposed project may use any gaming technology and platform.

This FOA is aligned with the 5-year Federal CoSTEM Strategic Plan in the priority areas of “games for learning” and “citizen science activities that advance both science and learning”. (

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government