AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp Proves Parents Wrong – Video Games Can Get Kids Somewhere

By AT&T PUBLIC AFFAIRS | September 11, 2020

More than 60 local students participate in free two-week virtual program incorporating an educational video game format to provide unique learning experience that included lessons on the role of science in COVID-19 and racial justice

ROCHESTER, N.Y.: Parents are always telling their children to stop playing video games and that they will never get them anywhere; but for the past two weeks, more than 60 local middle and high students enjoyed proving their parents wrong. These dedicated students gave up their daily summer break activities to participate in the AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp powered by Tyto Online that used a STEM based video game platform to provide the students engaging science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons.

This unique program, which was entirely free for all students to eliminate economic barriers, helped enhance students’ STEM knowledge and skills as they completed activities during live instructor-led sessions and with their peers using an educational video game format, which is part of Immersed Games’ Tyto Online digital educational product. They also met game developers, learned about these exciting STEM careers, and were coached in designing their own science-based quests. The virtual program was created to provide local students an opportunity to learn, interact with other students, and have fun safely to fill the void left by so many summer programs being canceled due to the pandemic.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson virtually visited the AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp to address the student participants on the importance of engaging in a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education and career paths. The students had the chance to present Assemblymember Bronson their game pitches for new STEM game content that they had designed as part of the summer camp. Assemblymember Bronson  commended the students for their participation during summer break and for their creative showcase of the new STEM digital video game ideas.

“I applaud AT&T for their interest in preparing our young people for an exciting future,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “This educational program invites learning under the guise of fun. I know that the students are going to bring what they have learned at camp to their next classroom and share this experience with others. The commitment these young people are demonstrating to scientific education gives me great hope in our next generation of leaders.”

The AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp, a partnership between AT&T and Immersed Games, was offered to public school students across Rochester and surrounding communities to provide them an opportunity to refresh their educational skills and address the STEM summer slide – the loss of STEM knowledge that children experience when they take a break from their academic routines.  The slide has been compounded this year with the abrupt move to distance learning in schools in March due to COVID-19.

“AT&T is proud to collaborate with Immersed Games to provide this extraordinary education opportunity for local students to help prepare them for the upcoming school year, while gaining the digital literacy needed to compete in the global innovation economy,” said Kevin Hanna, director of External Affairs, AT&T. “It was an honor to have Assemblymember Bronson provide inspirational remarks and talk with the students about the importance of STEM and commend them on their perseverance and dedication to their education through these difficult times.”

The AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp was uniquely engaging due to the use of video games to set up authentic science problems that students are able to research and solve while being fully immersed as a character within the video game. The program also included new content focused on COVID19 and racial justice, and how science and technology  can be used to address both of these vital issues.

“The experience of being able to use science to have positive social impact is what is so powerful and attractive about using the video game platform because students are not passively watching videos or reading about something, they are actually developing critical skills by doing science via the immersive platform,” said Lindsey Tropf, founder and CEO of Immersed Games.

The program also provided students an opportunity to look at careers in STEM jobs, including video game development careers and meeting professional platform developers.  Students worked through the program to create their own quest proposals around these relevant topics. Instructor Dr. Pope said, “I was impressed by the participants’ creativity in designing new science-based quests and their interest in learning about different careers in STEM, specifically digital game design.

Headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., Immersed Games was cofounded by Monroe County resident Caroline Lamarque and helps teachers deliver hands-on, next generation science learning – within a video game. The video game builds science and engineering skills with student experiences like solving an invasive species problem, building ecosystems, and breeding dragons.

“We’re so excited to be sharing ‘Tyto Online’ with this group of bright young people,” Lamarque reported. “We’re passionate about providing authentic, science-driven video game experiences for kids all year round, but we hope that this summer camp will make students aware of career paths that they may not have otherwise considered. It also provides us with the invaluable opportunity to hear the thoughts and opinions of our most important users: kids themselves!”

Because of Lamarque’s dedication to education technology, especially in the Rochester region, she made time to teach some of the camp and engage with the students over the two weeks.

Programs like the AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp are vital 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 2025 there will be 3.5 million unfilled STEM jobs in America, underscoring the importance of providing youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy.

AT&T’s support for this program is part of the company’s legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York and nationally through AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature $550 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, programing, 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.

The AT&T ROC Virtual STEM Summer Camp also aligns with the company’s AT&T Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund, a $10 million COVID-19 relief program launched to give parents, caregivers and teachers tools they need to help educate the students learning from home