By Caroline Curtin, Policy Counsel Microsoft U.S. Government Affairs

“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you've produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too,” said President Obama in 2009, on why he was starting an annual science fair at the White House.

Four years later – and just this Monday – 100 kids proudly displayed their inventions at the 2013 White House Science Fair. There was a self-cooling system for the inside of football uniforms. A quantitative sleep study that illustrates the connection between sleep patterns and the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s. All of the exhibits were exceptional, but the one that had particular meaning to me was designed by Gustavo Zacarias.

Gustavo is a middle schooler from San Antonio, Texas. He presented The Dark Labyrinth, a 3-D maze that players navigate by solving math challenges. He coded the game on Kodu, a free game design tool created by Microsoft that enables kids to easily build their own video games. The Dark Labyrinth took home first place in the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been an early supporter of the Challenge. Seeing him at the White House was a proud moment for the progress we’ve made in furthering STEM education across America.

“I never thought I would be exhibiting my game at the White House,” said Gustavo. “I worked very hard during the making of the game and was very happy about winning a national competition, so I’m very excited and thankful for the opportunity to be part of this great event.” Gustavo began playing video games at age 4 and plans to build a career as a game designer.

“Young people like this have to make you hopeful about the future.”

-President Obama at the 2013 White House Science Fair

Young people are capable of extraordinary things. At Microsoft, we’re working to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential. That’s why we launched Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide initiative with a three year commitment to create opportunity for 300 million young people around the world. That’s why we partner with the STEM National Video Game Challenge and helped set up TEALS, which places professional engineers in high school classrooms to teach computer science virtually or in person. The need for schools to embrace STEM curricula and for students to study computer science is imperative for America’s youth and the country’s success in the global economy.

clip_image002 Caroline Curtin is part of Microsoft’s U.S. Government Affairs team based in Washington, D.C. In her role as policy counsel, she supports Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business which includes Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, the controller-free Kinect for Xbox 360 and music and video services.