As part of our broad efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and inspire the world’s next innovators, Microsoft launched a new product that opens young minds to STEM while providing students with a fun way to build a whole range of skills that will be useful regardless of their chosen career path.

Kodu Game Lab is a free PC application that enables kids as young as five to create new worlds and video games without any programming expertise. It builds real-world skills by encouraging kids to analyze a problem and develop a solution by using drag-and-drop icons to create a video game with landscapes, players and their own characteristics, actions and rules.

In addition to the launch of the Kodu Game Lab, Microsoft launched the U.S. Kodu Cup, a competition for students around the United States to submit their Kodu games. We’re also releasing a classroom kit for teachers to easily implement Kodu into their curricula. Hopefully, Kodu can play a role in helping children learn and encouraging more children to become future video game designers, engineers or scientists.

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion in the U.S. around the importance of igniting students’ interest in STEM.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. will have more than 2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2014, yet fewer than 15 percent of U.S. college undergraduates now pursue degrees in science or engineering. Of course, it’s not just about jobs. We need more STEM graduates to create the next innovations so important to the U.S.’ future economic competitiveness.

So, how do help children to see the excitement and possibilities that future STEM careers present? How do we help them develop the skills they’ll need?

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