Buffalo-based Immersed Games was one of the eight ed-tech companies selected for this year’s AT&T Aspire Accelerator class and will receive $125,000 investment. In addition, they will spend six months receiving the mentoring, resources, services and expertise needed to drive change and help reach students across the country. Unlike other accelerators, Immersed Games will not have to move to participate in the Aspire Accelerator and will take part partly or fully virtually because of COVID-19.
Immersed Games supports teachers by enabling students to “do” science by having students actively solve authentic problems within a video game. For example, student experiences include collecting evidence to determine if a species is invasive or solving a food shortage while learning about genetics. The product, called Tyto Online, helps students actively build their science and engineering skills and scientific literacy as they play and engage in these authentic science problems.
In light of the current political climate, many educators are requesting tools that will allow them to better support students grappling with issues stemming from systemic racism and police violence. Providing support for diverse students has always been a key value for Immersed Games, and they incorporate a variety of inclusive strategies into Tyto Online. Now, they are looking to do more for and with educators, and will be incorporating anti-racism science content into Tyto Online, with the first installment planned for fall release.
Immersed Games is a 2018 43North winner, receiving a $500,000 investment from New York and free incubator space in Buffalo for one year, guidance from mentors and access to other business incentive programs to eight startups from around the world. The company, formally of Florida, has made Buffalo its headquarters after its one-year participation in the 43 North program and is dedicated to staying in the region as the ed-tech company grows.
“AT&T’s Aspire Accelerator provides services, support and mentorship opportunities to teach students science and other skills to help them succeed,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Congratulations to Immersed Games, a 43North competition winner based in Buffalo, which is receiving $125,000 through the program to give students the online experience to engage in problem solving, engineering and science.”
The eight companies in this year’s AT&T Aspire Accelerator class are focused on everything from building applications to help students develop social-emotional skills, to teaching science through online gaming, to increasing engagement through virtual reality. With an estimated 55 million students learning remotely due to COVID-19 school closures, teachers, parents and students are looking for fresh approaches from innovative sources, precisely what this class of companies are focused on.
The Accelerator was created in 2015 as part AT&T Aspire, a $550 million commitment since 2008 that leverages technology, relationships and innovation to improve education and prepare students for career success. Program participants have included 70% women-led companies and 51 percent minority-led companies.
Other members of the 2020 AT&T Aspire Accelerator class include:
• Almost Fun (501(c)(3)/Brooklyn, New York) reinvents test prep for underserved students by providing questions based on culturally relevant news, relatable situations, and the careers of diverse professionals.
• Fiveable (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) supports high school students after school with AP exams, college admissions and social-emotional skills through livestreams, community discussions and interactive content.
• GiveTHX (501(c)(3)/San Francisco, California) builds student wellbeing and school culture using digital thank you notes to recognize positive behaviors that nurture relationships.
• KlickEngage (Miami, Florida) empowers students to report their emotional state daily and receive the support they need more efficiently, in order to feel safe and supported in every environment.
• Purpose Project (501(c)(3)/San Francisco, California) builds much needed 21st century skills such as creativity, self-direction and community contribution in youth and young adults through a curriculum and digital platform.
• Social Cipher (Los Angeles, California) creates video games that give players who are autistic a safe space to practice social situations and build social-emotional skills through play.
• TechRow Inc. (New York, New York) aims to solve the disengagement challenge in classrooms by leveraging immersive technology such as virtual reality.