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Chopade earns national award in video game design

Away from game designing, Puja Chopade enjoys rafting on a local river. CONTRIBUTED
Away from game designing, Puja Chopade enjoys rafting on a local river. CONTRIBUTED
MADISON – Ten-year-old Puja Chopade, a Columbia Elementary School student, won the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Chopade accepted her award at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC., where she and her family toured 13 Smithsonian museums, the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
In her design, Chopade used global concerns, like global warming, to create her original game, “Save the World!” Players earn points by suggesting solutions to ecological problems. Her work won the Middle School Game Design Document category in the STEM challenge.
“I became interested in creating video games when my fourth-grade science teacher, Mrs. Katie Vonderheide, at Columbia introduced code.org to our class,” Chopade said.
To write her game design document, Chopade used Microsoft Word and learned software tools from Columbia’s gifted teacher. She worked during summer on the game design.
“Judges were pleased with the whole idea. I shared my game with all the other award winners, and they liked it, too,” Chopade said.
Along with Vonderheide, Chopade acknowledged help from STEM role models Deborah Medeiros and Lisa Grice. Puja’s sister, Neha Chopade, and her mother encouraged her constantly.
Puja’s parents are Shubham and Beena Chopade, originally from India. Born in Florence, S.C., Puja and her twin Neha are Columbia sixth-graders. Neha also was a finalist for her game design.
“I’m very excited about the Institution Award that came with my winnings. I designated my school, Columbia, to receive the $2,000. My school has lots of STEM initiatives. The teachers, Principal Jamie Hill and Assistant Principal Laura Minor are always trying to inculcate a love of STEM. I’m proud that I have donated to a right cause,” Puja said.
In other awards, Puja won the National STEM Voice Challenge and placed fourth in State Geography Bee. She participates with Columbia’s math, chess and robotics teams. Creative Communications plans to publish her poetry.
Last summer, Puja and Neha entered the eCyberMission Challenge, an Army Educational Outreach Program. They researched removing plastic bottle caps from waterways and presented their analysis to Mayor Paul Finley.
For more information, visit joanganzcooneycenter.org/2016/11/14/meet-the-winners-puja-chopade.

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