The EdSim Challenge Finalists  

We are thrilled to share that today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the five finalists in the EdSim Challenge. The Challenge called upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.

Five finalists were selected out of an impressive 249 submissions. Thank you to everyone who entered for your hard work! We are inspired by the tremendous participation in the Challenge.

Join us in congratulating the finalists!

  • Case Western Reserve University: Holographic Applications to Transform Learning uses holographic display technology, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, with multiple students to advance medical educational experiences and outcomes.
  • Embodied Labs, Inc.: Embodied Labs is an embodied patient experience lab that uses virtual reality to train students to become better caregivers of aging populations.
  • Octothorpe LLC: The Irregular: A Mystery at Baker Street is a VR experience that uses critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork to explore skills related to success in STEM fields.
  • Osso VR Inc.: Osso VR is a highly-mobile surgical training platform that enables healthcare professionals to practice cutting edge techniques through realistic, hands-on simulations.
  • Smart Sparrow: LifeCraft explores the story of life on Earth with VR voyages through biology, archaeology, astronomy, and beyond.

The finalists were recommended by a panel of judges with expertise in education, gaming, workforce development, emerging technology, and venture capital.

Each finalist will receive $50,000, as well as in-kind prizes from Oculus and Samsung, and will enter the Virtual Accelerator to refine their submission and develop a prototype. HTC VIVE™ announced separately that they will offer each finalist a Vive virtual reality headset.

The Virtual Accelerator phase will culminate in Demo Day, where each of the finalists will present their playable prototypes to the panel of judges. The judges will recommend the grand prize winner(s) to receive the remaining $430,000 of the $680,000 cash prize and additional in-kind prizes from IBM and Microsoft.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner later this year.

Reminder: Submit your simulation concept by January 17

The EdSim Challenge submission deadline is fast approaching with less than a month left to submit your simulation concept! Please submit here by 4:59:59 PM EST on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

Following close of submissions, the judging panel will select up to five finalists to receive $50,000 each and advance to the Virtual Accelerator. During the Virtual Accelerator, each team will work with expert mentors as they refine their concept and build a simulation prototype.

If you have questions about your submission, watch our informational webinar here or email us at We look forward to seeing your concepts.

Announcing the EdSim Challenge Judges

Today we are excited to introduce our esteemed jury. They bring a wealth of expertise in education, gaming, industry training, emerging technology, and venture capital to the Challenge, and share a passion for the transformative potential of new tools for learning.

We are honored to have this group of leaders contribute their incredible talents to the Challenge, and would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the judges for their time and effort.

Meet your judges!


Virtual Reality & Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist, Ford Motor Company

Elizabeth Baron is a Technical Specialist in Virtual Reality and Advanced Visualization at Ford Motor Company. She has been the driving force in the development and deployment of immersive vehicle verification technology at Ford Motor Company and is the principal inventor of the Ford immersive Vehicle Environment (FiVE) process and technology. Elizabeth became the first Virtual Reality Technical Specialist at Ford, a position she asked to create so that she could grow the technology with the Company. Elizabeth was awarded the highest technical award in Ford Motor Company, the Dr. Haren Gandhi Research and Innovation Award, honoring her career in immersive visualization and her technical leadership.


CEO and Founder, Emblematic Group

Nonny is CEO and founder of the Emblematic Group which uses digital reality technologies to tell important stories both fictional and news-based that create intense, empathic engagement on the part of viewers. Her work is funded by various organizations, including the University of Southern California, Tribeca Film Institute, Google, Associated Press and the World Economic Forum. Nonny was called “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by Engadget and The Guardian, and was named “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative” by Fast Company.


CEO of GSVlabs

Marlon is CEO of GSVlabs where he oversees an ecosystem of innovation including 180+ start-ups, investors, corporations, universities, and government. In creating a platform for collaboration via innovation labs focused on ed tech, mobility, big data, entertainment and sustainability, GSVlabs helps accelerate the journey from solution to scale.  Prior to joining GSVlabs, Marlon served as a Director of Corporate Affairs at Hewlett-Packard. His team implemented global community engagement programs, collaborating with the Stanford on ideathons and facilitating company-driven hackathons in support of educational, health, and environmental innovation.


Video Game Design and Development Teacher, William Annin Middle School

Steve Isaacs teaches Video Game Design and Development at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ. In addition, he developed and teaches an online version of the Video Game Design and Development course for the VHS Collaborative. Community building and connecting with other educators is one of Steve’s passions. He is proud to be the co-founder of #EdTechBridge, a Twitter chat and community working to build collaborative relationships among EdTech stakeholders to create better EdTech for our students.

Reshma Soujani

Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code

Reshma is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology. Through its Summer Immersion Programs and Clubs, Girls Who Code is leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Reshma’s TED talk, “Teach girls, bravery not perfection”, has more than one million views and has sparked a national conversation about how we’re raising our girls. She is also the author of the groundbreaking new book, Women Who Don’t Wait In Line.


Co-Director of the Games+Learning+Society Center in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Kurt is Professor of Digital Media in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at University of Wisconsin Madison and Co-Director of the Games+Learning+Society Center in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. A former Montessori and primary school teacher, Kurt also has served as research manager of the Games-to-Teach Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-director of the Education Arcade. He is a published author and internationally recognized leader in games and learning.


Microsoft’s 343 Industries, Halo Transmedia & Entertainment Studio Head

Kiki Wolfkill heads up 343 Industries’ transmedia and entertainment efforts. She served as Executive Producer on the digital series “Halo: The Fall of Reach”, “Halo: Nightfall”, the upcoming Halo television series, as well as the Halo Channel experience on Xbox One, PC, and mobile platforms. As a passionate storyteller both in and out of games, Kiki brings together her production background and her creative leadership to deliver on the next chapter in Halo’s expansive universe. In 2013, Kiki was named one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming by Fortune Magazine.

As a reminder, the EdSim Challenge is accepting submissions for simulation concepts through January 17, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM EST. Sign up to receive all Challenge updates here.

Launched Today: The EdSim Challenge

Today, the U.S. Department of Education launched the EdSim Challenge with a cash prize pool of $680,000 and additional sponsor prizes from IBM, Microsoft, Oculus, and Samsung. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century. Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.

Simulated environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multiplayer video games, are emerging approaches to deliver educational content. Research indicates that simulation-based learning provides students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes.    

“This initiative is an exciting example of how virtual reality and game technologies can be applied to give students everywhere the tools to prepare for future success,” said Johan Uvin, acting assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education. “We encourage developers from all disciplines to answer our call and help define the future of applied learning.”

Those interested in entering the Challenge should submit their simulation concepts here by January 17, 2017. Following close of submissions, a multidisciplinary panel of judges will evaluate the entries and select up five finalists to advance to the Virtual Accelerator phase. Each finalist will be awarded $50,000 and gain access to expert mentorship as they refine their concept and build a simulation prototype.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our informational webinar on November 16, 2016 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST to hear an overview of the Challenge and ask questions. Also, see the selection criteria and rules, terms, and conditions.

Join us in creating the future of educational simulations in the classroom!