L-R Eric Morehouse, Connor Majewski,
Tony Fountain (teacher), Alex Closson,
More than 40 public school students jammed away on computers, electronic instruments and digital drawing tablets for 24 hours as participants of The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T, the region’s first high school game jam, from Friday, October 14 through 10 p.m. Saturday, October 15. The unique event provided an opportunity for local public high school students interested in learning what it takes to make a video game and gain a new technological skill from the most talented developers in the region. The applied educational experience was created and hosted by the Buffalo Game Space, InfoTech WNY, WNY STEM Hub and AT&T to introduce and encourage more students to follow along a technology or STEM career path. The event challenged teams of high school students from Hutchinson Central Technical High School, City Honors School, Computing Academy of Technology Sciences at Bennett, Leonardo da Vinci High School, Wellsville High School and an all-female team consisting of members of the year-long It’s Your World! Develop It! Powered by AT&T coding program, to develop functional video games that have an overarching theme of social good in 24 hours. The event was free for the students and development resources were provided for all students that they would not normally have access to in an effort to eliminate economic barriers and promote an all-inclusive experience.
The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T took place over the course of this past weekend at Buffalo Game Space, 2495 Main Street, Suite #454, and featured local professional game developers, computer programmers, artists, and musicians to act as mentors and allow the student teams to take a hands-on approach, designing levels, crafting art, creating music and more, all resulting in a set of original games the students can call their own. Additionally, there were lightning talks from experienced game makers covering every aspect of what it’s like to work with this exciting medium and learn about career options. The event is designed to provide hands on experience and exposure to new software and technologies that are in demand in a rapidly growing industry. It is not a competition between the teams, though there will be awards in various categories that encompasses making a successful video game, art, music, coding and team work.
Events like The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T are important for regional youth because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from STEM-related jobs – a highly lucrative and competitive field. It is estimated by 2020 there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, underscoring the importance of providing the youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in the growing innovation economy. The inclusion of the all-female team is to help bridge the gender divide in the tech industry and workforce. The urgency for more STEM and computer science educated employees is accentuated by the low percentage of females who are currently employed at major technology firms (29 percent) and women pursuing bachelors’ degrees for computer science is just 18 percent.AT&T’s support for this program is part of the company’s legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM and computer coding disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature $350 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring. Aspire is one of the nation’s largest corporate commitments focused on school success and workforce readiness by creating new learning environments and educational delivery systems to help students succeed and prepare them to take on 21st century careers. AT&T has given more than $103 million to support STEM initiatives since 1987. Projects supported by AT&T contributions range from after-school programs and camps for students at risk of dropping out to hands-on technology labs and elite robotics competitions and mobile app challenges.
“AT&T is proud to have collaborate with these dynamic organizations to develop and support this innovative experience for students as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for STEM-related educational programming throughout Western New York,” said Marissa Shorenstein, New York president, AT&T. “Our economy continues to transform at a robust pace – requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy – and STEM focused programs like this one are vital to ensure that the students of today are equipped to compete in the global innovation economy of tomorrow.”
"This provided a great opportunity for these students who might not normally have the resources or opportunity to learn how to develop a game, gain valuable skills or access to high-end equipment," adds Buffalo Game Space President John Futscher. "Game development is a huge and growing industry. By offering this opportunity and benefits to students who can't acquire them on their own, we're helping them gain the knowledge needed to begin a future in one of the world’s largest technology sectors.”
Buffalo Game Space is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to expanding local game development in Western New York. Its mission is to bring local game developers together and provide classes and an open space to work and collaborate in efforts to keep local talent here, making Buffalo an epicenter for game development and building upon the innovation and technology resurgence of the region.
“InfoTech WNY is honored to have been able to support The Queen City High School Game Jam in collaboration with AT&T and the Buffalo Game Space. We believe that it is important to engage high school students with real life projects and hands on activities that will help these students progress to build a better future.”
The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T aligns with one of InfoTech WNY’s organizational pillars to address various industry-specific issues such as workforce availability, industry image, technology transfer, networking, access to financing, and attracting new interest in the regional technology sector.
"While introducing girls to coding this summer through the AT&T powered It's Your World! Develop It! project, we noticed that game development was high on their list of motivating coding projects,” said Dr. Michelle Kavanaugh, president, WNY STEM. “We are fortunate to be able to extend their experience at this game jam and the girls are excited to take part."
Eric Morehouse, Wellsville student participant – “I have been learning a lot, that's one thing. It is interesting and we are having fun. Would love to do it again.”
Connor Majewski, Wellsville student participant - “I think it is fun because it is helping us learn the fundamentals of video game programming.”
Alex Closson, Wellsville student participant – “I have been Loving this opportunity, I am learning a lot! Especially with sound programs that I did not know you could do.”
Quintin Haggerty, Wellsville student participant – “It has been a very educational event. Lit has also been a lot of fun and great experience to work with people that know what they are doing.”
Tony Fountain, Wellsville student’s teacher – “This was an amazing experience for these kids. In just 24 hours they have learned so much that they will be able to take with them and build on. Wellsville CSD would like to thank AT&T, WNY STEM, Buffalo Game Space and InfoTech WNY for providing our kids with such a great learning experience!”