It’s not often that young people are presented an opportunity to attend an event that involves gaming, STEM learning, and a feel-good Buffalo-centric aspect at the same time. But that’s exactly what Buffalo Game Space, AT&T, InfoTech WNY, and WNY STEM Hub set out to do when they came together to create The Queen City High School Game Jam.
Of course the big draw was to learn how to create a video game, which is the main reason that the local public and charter high school students got involved with the free exercise. At the same time, there were additional learning elements baked into the event, designed to get the participants venturing down a STEM career path, while discovering positive aspects of the city that they might not be familiar with.
Development resources were made available for all students who would not normally have access, to eliminate economic barriers and promote an all-inclusive experience.
Altogether, six teams participated in The Queen City High School Game Jam – City Honors School, Lewis J. Bennett School of Innovative Technology, Math Science Tech Prep at Seneca, Buffalo Academy of Science, Olmsted High School, Frederick Law Olmsted High School, and an all-female team consisting of members of WNY STEM Hub Girls Coding Project Powered by AT&T.
The video games that the students developed revolved around the theme of making Buffalo a better city, while taking into account the remarkable attributes that already exist in the region. This exercise is not only a form of empowerment, it’s a way to get young people to identify, embrace, and care for the city where they live.
The event, hosted at Buffalo Game Space, was held over the course of 24 hours, starting this past Friday night, before wrapping up Saturday night. In order to pull off this educational feat, the orchestrators of the event enlisted the help of local professional game developers, computer programmers, artists, and musicians, who came together to teach the students the ins and outs of coding, creating music, designing graphics, etc.
“AT&T is proud to collaborate again 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 Benjamin Roberts, director of Public Affairs, AT&T. “This event is so inspiring, most of the students come only knowing how to play a video game and an interest in developing them and leave with the basic tech skills to make their own, and even more essential the eagerness and confidence to continue learning about the technology and the growing industry on their own. I am so impressed and moved by the determination and creativeness of all the students that have given up their weekend to expand their education.”
“This is 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 again this year, we’re helping them gain the knowledge needed to begin a future in one of the world’s largest technology sectors.”
In the end, the initiative helps to serve an even higher cause. According to AT&T, STEM jobs are some of the most lucrative and hardest to fill in WNY. Companies such as AT&T can play a role in providing the STEM educational opportunities to students, who can then decide whether they want to pursue careers in the field.
It is estimated in two years there will be more than 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers.
AT&T Aspire is the company’s signature $400 million philanthropic initiative that allows these types of free training services to transpire. AT&T joins together with other local organizations such as InfoTech WNY and WNY STEM Hub, to ensure that the necessary resources are available to the students during The Queen City High School Game Jam.
“InfoTech WNY is honored to support The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T in partnership with AT&T, Buffalo Game Space and WNY STEM Hub,” said Peter Cimino, chair, InfoTech WNY. “We believe that it is important to engage high school students with real life technological projects and hands on activities that will help these students progress to build a better future.”
“WNY STEM Hub looks forward each year to seeing local young people, including girls, work as a team and delve deep into this creative coding experience of making video games,” said Dr. Michelle Kavanaugh, president, WNY STEM Hub. “The Queen City High School Game Jam Powered by AT&T provides them a unique opportunity to be immersed in a real world challenge and be surrounded by talented gaming mentors. It is a great gift for local students to be a part of this remarkable program!”