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Wilmington University is adding an esports program | #education | #technology | #training | #hacking | #aihp

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Wilmington University will continue to prioritize science, technology, engineering and mathematics education as the university announced its partnership with Futures First Gaming.

WilmU’s partnership with FFG will create degree and certificate pathways for students in the esports and gaming communities. The partnership announced on April 11 will provide students with education and training in a variety of areas that pertain to the esports industry.

“The agreement between WilmU and FFG leverages the capabilities of both to ensure there’s academic rigor that benefits students with and without esports and game design credentials,” said Scott Shaw, assistant professor and academic chair of WilmU’s Game Design program in a press release.

“There’s so much more to it beyond programming and game design, and this agreement provides pathways to educational credit for skill-building, and opportunities to gain a wider perspective of the industry.”

FFG was co-founded in February 2020 by CEO Stephen Sye, who said the company’s goal was to spread the reach of esports, short for electronic sports, a form of competition using video games, to the state of Delaware. The organization soon struck a partnership with Microsoft’s Christiana Mall location where FFG would facilitate esports programming and hold an in-person event at the store. The pandemic prevented the FFG event from taking place, but through the organization’s relationship with Microsoft, FFG was able to plant the seeds for their partnership with WilmU.

“After the pandemic put everything on hold, we kept working on our Futures First programming. Through Microsoft, we were able to connect with Scott Shaw from WilmU, but given the circumstances, nothing materialized. We knew that in order for us to reach our goals, we were missing one large piece to the puzzle, and that was a university relationship.” Mr. Sye said.

Though the pandemic put FFG’s initial plans on hold, the organization continued to work toward its goal of partnering with a university. Mr. Sye said he was able to meet with Mr. Shaw and Lindsay Rice, WilmU senior director of Academic Partnerships, to discuss the organization’s programming and the two parties ultimately decided that a collaboration was the best move.

Through the partnership, WilmU and FFG will create a pathway program using FFG’s Futures First programming. The pathway program will encourage students to pursue career paths in esports aside from simply participating in competitions. WilmU instructors will provide students with a variety of pathways including coding, gaming design, esports industry entrepreneurship, esports training and skills development.

WilmU’s Game Design and Development program was the first of its kind to provide students with an undergraduate degree in Delaware, and through the partnership, FFG will help WilmU create a pipeline for students to pursue opportunities in esports-related fields.

The partnership will align with FFG’s current workforce development program and provide high school students within the program the access to WilmU instructors, facilities and program content for college credit.

FFG’s current workforce development program is in partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and targets qualified 14- to 18-year-olds from low-income communities who have an interest in the esports community. In the program, students go through comprehensive training to study curriculum centered around web development, computer science, cybersecurity and game design. Students are also taught curriculum surrounding esports entrepreneurship, and at the end of the program, students are tasked with a team-based project where groups will produce their own esports tournament from start to finish.

Mr. Sye said he has many ideas to supplement WilmU’s partnership with FFG, including a potential skills-based certificate program that would allow students interested in the esports industry to pursue careers should those students decide not to attend college. He said this is just one of many ideas about how the two parties could get the best out of their respective assets.

“The possibilities are endless with esports. We could look at developing an esports degree program at WilmU, we could conduct our own esports events, tournaments, workshops and camps at WilmU facilities across the state, whatever. I think this is the perfect fit.” Mr. Sye said.

The popularity of esports has boomed in the last five to 10 years according to Mr. Sye, who says more than 5,000 high schools across the country have begun esports programs and more than 200 universities offer a combined $15 million in scholarships to esports athletes.

WilmU’s partnership with FFG will provide both high school and college students the opportunity to pursue the variety of careers within the esports industry, and according to Mr. Sye, the expansion of access to this type of education will be a great benefit for students in Delaware, FFG and the students and staff of WilmU.

“We’re starting to really realize how important and how significant this industry could become,” Mr. Sye said.

“There are so many job opportunities and so much economic potential that lies behind esports, and we’re glad that WilmU sees that too.”

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