IAM Summer Challenge

2016: Pattern Recognition

Congratulations to the 2016 Summer Challenge winners!

2016 Winning team: Pitchlings

  • Ali Cedroni - Lead Design/Sound Design
  • Natasha Gawrit - Composition
  • Hannah Evans - Art
  • Kide Howard - Art
  • Dane Wheaton - Programming
  • Andrew Rines - Gameplay Design/Programming
  • Jordon Reese - Programming
  • Eric Eldridge - Gameplay Design/Programming
  • Amanda Hamrick - Coordinator/Producer


Special thanks to:

  • Dr. Katie Paciga for mentoring IAM Summer Challenge students, playtesting, and providing invaluable feedback.
  • Dr. Kathleen Loftus for help in formulating this year's challenge.
  • Dane Wheaton
  • The IAM department for donating t-shirts
  • Guest Judges: Arlo and Wyatt Johnson, and Charlie and Annie Paciga
  • IAM Faculty advisors: Janell Baxter, and Lauren Johnson

And thanks to all those who playtested and gave feedback to students this summer!

tshirt tshirt

Participant T-Shirts

This year's t-shirt design is by Natasha Gawrit.


The Challenge

Create an interactive experience that helps children aged 5-8 develop pattern recognition skills!


  • Teams must have at least two members, and at least one member must be an IAM major or alum.
  • At least one representative of the team must be available on June 30th from noon to 5:00 pm for the judging and awards (ideally the entire team will be present).
  • Projects must be ready to present and files archived on our system by noon June 30th to be eligible for a prize.
  • Projects must be interactive (any technology may be used however).
  • Projects may use open source technology or assets, but all non-original materials must be credited and must abide by licensing.
  • Relative difficulty of the user's experience must measurably increase as goals are met.
  • All projects must contain at least five "levels". Each level must be accessible by the user at any time, to be experienced in any order (to accommodate various skill levels).
  • All projects must encourage pattern recognition using at least one of the following:
    • Colors
    • Shapes
    • Numbers
    • Letters/words
    • Sounds
    • Images
    • Symbols
    • Motion
  • All content must be appropriate for kids!


Points will be awarded based on:

  • Educational value (35%)
    • NOTE: The most surefire way to earn points in this category is to back your project up with empirical evidence - demonstrate to the judges that you've done your research by citing credible scientific sources that support the content of your interactive experience. For example, here's a citation of an article about patterns in music: Geist, K., Geist, E. A., & Kuznik, K. (2012). The Patterns of Music. Young Children, 2, 75.
  • Functionality (25%)
  • Innovation (25%)
  • Presentation (15%)
    • NOTE: Flashier does NOT necessarily mean better for this age group - points will actually be subtracted from this category if extraneous elements are perceived to distract from the core experience.
  • BONUS: Up to 10 additional percentage points awarded for multiplayer functionality! The more relevant this component is to the experience, the more bonus points you get!

Helpful guidelines for creating content for preschool to elementary-aged children:

According to the Common Core, these are some concepts that kindergarten-aged children are typically expected to understand:

  • The alphabet
  • Syllable
  • Sentence
  • Vowels and consonants
  • Nouns and verbs
  • Rhyme
  • Numbers between one and twenty
  • Number names ("ten" to represent the same value as "10")
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Left and right
  • Basic two-dimensional shapes (circle, triangle, rectangle)
  • Melody
  • Time (day, week, year)
  • The difference between "detail" and "main idea"
  • Opposites
  • Pairs
  • Groups
  • Size differences
  • Phonemic awareness and association (the sounds of the letters"b,""u," and"g," the word"bug," and an image of a bug)


What skill requirements are needed?
None! All skill levels are welcome. Just be willing to learn and participate.

How much time do I need to spend working on it?
The month-long time frame doesn't mean you have to work non-stop during the month - it just means that it is slower paced than a 24-hour game jam or hackathon. The amount of time you want to contribute is up to you and your team.

I'm not in Chicago this summer, can I still join?
Yes! You don't have to be on campus or in the city - you can work remotely! It is up to you and your team how you coordinate.

Can my friend from another department join? Can graduates participate?
Each team just needs one IAM person (such as a current IAM student or an IAM alum) so if you have friends outside of the department (or the school) who you'd like to work with - great! If you don't have a team no worries - we are meeting up on June 1st to see who is interested and get the teams formed.

Do we have to build a game?
Nope. You can build any type of solution to the challenge as long as it is interactive.

Can we build something physical?
Yes! Any technology can be used. If you want to build your own version of Optimus Prime, an interactive environment, or a board game that's fine. IAM does have a laser cutter, 3D printers, and other neat tech.

If you haven't participated in an IAM Summer Challenge yet, it's like a hackathon or game challenge.

If you've done one of those in 24 or 48 hours, imagine what you can do in a month!

No skill level requirements - just enthusiasm and willingness to create something awesome.