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Just Launched: Playlist Showcases 36 SBIR-funded “Games for Learning”

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Just Launched: Playlist Showcases 36 SBIR-funded “Games for Learning”

By Javier Saade, Former SBA Official
Published: October 8, 2014

Note: This blog is co-authored by Javier Saade, Ed Metz, Betty Royster, and Lindsay D'Ambrosio

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are the largest source of early-stage capital for innovative small companies in the United States. Via these programs, the federal government invests over 2 billion dollars in American entrepreneurial firms to develop and commercialize technologies that strengthen our nation's defense, improve the health of our citizens, and enhance education.

Javier Saade, Associate Administrator of SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation, which oversees both programs across the federal government describes it simply as “America’s seed fund.”

“The programs essentially help ‘de-risk’ technology ideation, conception, and development so that eventually private capital and industry help these small businesses take the ball further and commercialize the wide array of technologies funded,” he added. 

The programs reduce barriers to high-growth technology-based entrepreneurship and commercially viable inventions and products. Combining technological research and development with a commercial purpose helps grantees become the next Qualcomm, Genentech, Symantec, Z-Corporation, or iRobot – all recipients of SBIR/STTR capital, and leads to technological breakthroughs like 3-D printing, LASIK technology, and the Sonicare toothbrush. For more information on how SBIR works, please visit or see this recent post.

Announcing Two New SBIR/STTR Social Media Initiatives

As representatives of SBIR, we are blogging today to announce two initiatives that highlight areas of technological innovation where the program is making an impact.

First, we are leveraging the Twitter handle @SBAgov as well as the hashtag #SBIR to post timely news articles and resources on behalf of the 11 federal agencies that operate SBIR programs. Stay connected and follow us!

Second, we are launching "SBIR Video Playlists" to highlight themes emerging from the program. Playlist #1 (see below) includes 36 “Games for Learning" developed with funding support across nine different SBIR programs. 

More playlists are in the pipeline in the coming months, so stay tuned.

SBIR YouTube Playlist #1: Games for Learning

Game-based learning is gaining popularity as more and more students and adults play and learn from games in and out of the classroom. Well-designed games can motivate learners to actively engage in challenging tasks, master content, and sharpen critical thinking and problem solving skills. Key features of games that may have the greatest potential to impact student learning include: exciting narratives and rich video-game quality graphics, challenging discovery-based tasks, adaptive supports that adjust to and support individual learners, formative assessment data that guides instruction, and competition and rewards.

SBIR Program as a Catalyst in the Games for Learning Movement

The meteoric rise and popularity of web-based handheld and tablet devices has enabled game-playing anywhere and at any time, providing an expanded market for entrepreneurial developers interested in producing education-related titles.  In recent years, SBIR has become a go-to funding source for many developers entering the games for learning space in areas including education, military, and health.

In particular, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences’ (ED/IES) SBIR program has gained a reputation for attracting and supporting innovative game developers such as:

Games for learning are making their presence known across other SBIR programs as well, including at the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and the Department of Defense. In 2013, two SBIR programs (IES/ED and DARPA) even collaborated on a joint solicitation with education games as the focus.

SBIR-funded games for learning are front and center at stakeholder events. During the recent ED Games Week in Washington, D.C., hosted by The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Education, SBIR-funded developers participated in an Expo, Workshop, and Games Jam to highlight the emergence and promise of games.

The “Games for Learning” playlist provides short videos of 36 games funded by nine SBIR programs. Many of the games are fully developed and several are in wide scale use in educational settings, while others are currently in prototype form. Collectively, the playlist showcases the impact of SBIR as a catalyst in the games for learning movement across a wide variety of topics in the fields of education, health, and the military.

Some videos include:

  • Science: In Filament Games’ PLex and Second Avenue Software’s Martha Madison, and Muzzy Lane’s Slot Car Physics, students experiment and use scientific inquiry skills to drive gameplay.
  • Engineering: In Play Work Studio’s RoBees, young children control and maneuver robots. Triad Interative Media’s Blackfeather provides an introduction to coding.
  • Math: In Sokikom’s math games, students chop blocks in a virtual machine to practice fractions. In Triad Interactive Media’s Platinu Math, pre-service teachers are challenged through an adventure themed game to refresh or learn math content needed for instruction. 
  • Foreign Language: In Speak Agent’s game, students practice Mandarin Chinese while dressing a virtual character and in Muzzy Lane’s NELL students engage with an alien to make sense of words and structures not recognizable.
  • Special Education: In 3C Institute’s Stories in Motion, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder engage in animated scripts that facilitate social functioning.
  • Neuroscience: In Andamio’s iNeuron and Cogent Learning’s Nurbits, students employ critical thinking to understand neuroscience topics.
  • Health: In Muzzy Lane’s Quit It, players practice coping strategies for smoking cessation, and in VCOM3D’s Stat EMT serious game, military personnel are trained to respond as a medic during a simulated traumatic rescue scenario.
  • Military Training: In Aptima’s CAMO, Perceptronics Solutions SRTS, and TiER1’s game platform military personal prepare and practice through different gaming scenarios.

We will continue to add videos to this playlist as new SBIR-supported games become available.

Stay tuned for our next SBIR YouTube playlist, which will launch later this fall.

About the Authors

Ed Metz is the Program Manager for the SBIR Program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, a program that funds the development of education technology products (including games) to support student learning and teacher practice. Ed is a developmental psychologist, and a former American Association for the Advancement of Science and Society for Research in Child Development (AAAS/SRCD) Executive Branch Fellow.

Betty Royster is the Communications Specialist for the National Institutes of Health's SBIR and STTR programs and helps develop, implement and evaluate the team's outreach strategy. Betty has experience working on communications campaigns for other federal government agencies, including CDC, EPA and HUD.

Lindsay D'Ambrosio leads outreach and communications, and evaluation and assessment efforts for the National Science Foundation's SBIR and STTR programs.

Javier Saade is the SBA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Investment and Innovation and is part of the SBA's senior leadership team. He leads the agency's Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program and its Early Stage Investing and Impact Investing initiatives, and the SBIR/STTR program. Prior to SBA, Javier’s worked in areas of global general management, principal investing, strategic consulting, and entrepreneurism.

Games for Learning projects were supported by the following SBIR programs:

  • U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR)
  • Department of Defense, Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Program  Agency (DARPA SBIR)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF SBIR
  • U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH SBIR)
  • U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Office of Research Infrastructure Programs  (NIH/ORIP SBIR)
  • Department of Defense, NAVY, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAVY SBIR)
  • Department of Defense, Air Force (AF SBIR)
  • Department of Defense, Army Research Laboratory, Simulation and Training Technology Center (ARMY SBIR)
  • Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Health Program (DoD
  • U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA SBIR

About the Author:

Javier Saade
Javier Saade

Former SBA Official

Javier Saade is the Associate Administrator of the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Investment and Innovation.


Great article & excellent innovative way to spread SBIR games based learning to the population. This innovative idea will definitely involve population to do better for themselves & country as a whole.

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