In the Community: Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester and AT&T
What’s the news? In celebration of the conclusion of the inaugural AT&T ROC Jr. Game Dev Program and the AT&T and BGC (Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester) Digital Experience 2.0, the more than 50 public middle school students’ from across the Rochester region that spent the summer working hard to learn critical digital literacy and readiness skills through unique technology focused immersive experiences will showcase their projects and the video games they developed.
To commemorate the students achievements, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, Senator Jeremy Cooney and Assembly Member Demond Meeks, visited the program to commend the students for their work and address them on the importance of digital literacy and engaging in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and career pathways, while touring the program to see the students’ digital projects, including their unique operational video games, cola powered clocks, robotic arms they built, hand created race tracks & cars, digital solar systems, paleontology discoveries, flying drones, robots they constructed, hoverboards they programed and other tech projects they developed during the program.
“The Club seeks to address the lack of STEM activities and opportunities for underserved, at-risk low-income minority youth in Rochester. In particular, we seek to expose Club members to STEM at an earlier age, when their interest is driven by curiosity and builds capacity for success in STEM disciplines,” said Dwayne Mahoney, executive director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. “The partnership with AT&T has provided Club members with the opportunity to experience STEM skills and the understanding of career paths which involve STEM disciplines.”
This marks the second year of the two month-long AT&T and BGC Digital Experience 2.0, designed to encourage more underserved and diverse students to enter the field of technology, an industry that has long faced a pervasive diversity gap.
The digital literacy program also addressed equality issues in technology education and to help local students impacted by the digital divide. To eliminate economic barriers, the AT&T and BGC Digital Experience 2.0 and the AT&T ROC Jr. Game Dev Program were entirely free for students and are part of AT&T’s $2 billion nationwide commitment from 2021-2023 to help bridge the digital divide.
“Every child in Rochester deserves an opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Mayor Evans. “The wonderful projects completed by the youth of the Boys and Girls Club at the Digital Showcase prove that our children are capable and love to learn. Thanks to AT&T for providing city youth with opportunities to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, and math and for helping them become prepared to participate and be successful in our ever-changing world.”
Over the two-month AT&T and BGC Digital Experience 2.0, the young participants learned a vast array of digital literacy skills, including computer coding basics, drone design and operations, robotics building and programing, innovative engineering design, virtual reality fundamentals and aeronautics.
The students also learned how technology can be used for good and community building by creating solutions and discovering creative uses to address issues impacting youth of the region and how to use technology for social good. The program also connected students with coding projects designed to make a difference in their schools and their community, while providing them hands-on experience developing their own technology. The students learned from local mentors and professional technologists as well as went on field trips to tech settings and companies around their community to learn more about career opportunities.
New this year at the AT&T and BGC Digital Experience 2.0, the students took part in the AT&T ROC Jr. Game Dev Program, a two-week program which was the first of its kind summer educational opportunity in the region. It was born out of a desire from AT&T and well-known RIT gaming professors.
The unique program focused on the game development process, using current game development technology to customize the students own 2D platformer games. Students built their own digital characters, adversaries, effects, environments, and sound while integrating their customizations into the game.
The AT&T ROC Jr. Game Dev Program’s curriculum was created and taught by professors Sten McKinzie and Ben Snyder from the world-renowned School of Interactive Games and Media at RIT School of Interactive Games and Media at RIT, who specialize in various realms of video game development and coding. The students learned the basic technology and digital skills they needed to create new digital games that they can call their own. Additionally, there were discussions from experienced game makers about what it’s like to work in this exciting industry and learn about career options. The program also provided students a unique hands-on experience and exposed them to the rapidly growing video gaming industry across the Greater Rochester region and New York.
“I applaud the partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester, RIT, and AT&T to promote digital literacy and foster technological innovation, at no cost to Greater Rochester’s underserved youth. Not only are these young people connected with skills to help them succeed in high demand STEM careers, but they’re also given opportunities to use technology to benefit our community,” said Senator Cooney. “These are the leaders of today, not tomorrow, and the AT&T and BGC Digital Experience 2.0 and the AT&T ROC Jr. Game Dev Program demonstrates that the diversity gap in technology can be overcome when their creativity is allowed to flourish.”
“This program demonstrates how we address the significant diversity gap within STEM fields and provide skills in this arena for our underserved youth. Our students and children show each day that they have the drive and ability to learn these advanced concepts, to engage with technology and science. It is our responsibility to nurture that passion,” Assemblymember Meeks said. “By building upon that engagement, we provide our youth with the skills and readiness that prepare each of them for success on their future paths.”
Digital knowledge has become the new literacy and is the driver of all new global technology. With the growing demand to innovate, organizations across various industries struggle to fill skilled positions, STEM jobs are projected to be 3.5 million in the U.S. by 2025.