Sunday, December 17, 2017
Education

Gulf High academy to focus on video game technology

NEW PORT RICHEY — Nathan Post wished he wasn't a senior.

The avid gamer — Persona is a personal favorite — hopes to attend Full Sail University in the fall to study game development and design. That costs nearly $75,000 for the degree program.

So when Post learned Gulf High will launch a gaming technology career academy in the fall, he joked that he might be willing to incur his mom's wrath to stay at Gulf another year.

"I'm actually so interested in this program," Post said. "I want to end up creating a game myself that I want to play … even though I know what is happening."

Tapping into student interest is key in developing this new course of study, said graphic design teacher Chad Stoneking.

"When I mentioned it to the kids, you could see the little light bulb go off in their head," Stoneking said. "They were excited about it, which means they're interested, they're going to be here. They want to do it."

Business partners also are enthusiastic about the concept. They said it fits in with a lucrative, growing industry — CNN Money listed video game designer in its top 15 best jobs — while instilling important skills such as problem solving and collaboration.

"It is very difficult to find the talent that we need locally," said Adam Bohn, who runs Artix Entertainment, an online gaming company of 50 workers in a Lutz office complex. "While everybody seems to play games, very few students seem to take steps to make them."

Bohn said he expected Gulf's program to fuel the creativity and passion that he looks for in employees. He hoped to have academy students as interns with an eye toward future jobs.

"That's a dream," he said. "When we got the call, we threw ourselves at this one."

The idea for the gaming academy emerged from principal Kim Davis' desire to add a second career track at Gulf.

"As a district, we're working to get kids college, career and life ready," she said.

Davis convened an advisory team, which honed in on information technology programs as a business need that also carried student interest. Conversations with Artix and nearby Rasmussen College, which offers degrees in game and simulation programming, further focused the discussions toward gaming.

School and district officials also began researching other similar academies in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties, as well as the state curriculum format for the future academy.

"We want to make sure we're in line with what is out there," said Terry Aunchman, who is spearheading the effort for the district Career and Technical Education department.

As the investigation brought back positive information, the school began telling students about the academy. Teens in the school's Introduction to Information Technology course have a head start, with a fuller slate of classes coming in the fall.

Eventually, Davis said, the program will have its theme incorporated into all academic courses. She saw the opportunities as she listened to a group of avid gamers.

Senior Steven Gomez, a Donkey Kong and Super Mario fan, talked about how he had played games with historic plot lines, and then seen connections in his school history lessons.

"Not Assassin's Creed!" junior Brian Barroso interrupted, getting immediate agreement from Gomez and Post that the game contained inaccuracies.

Games also can include math, mythology, popular culture, art and other lessons, Post added.

"I especially play role-playing games because sometimes those bring out just wonderful story, and there's a wonderful science behind it," he said.

Incorporated well into the other curriculum of graphic development, animation and other technical aspects, Stoneking said, "they'll be learning the stuff and not even know it."

Barroso, a Pokemon and Zelda player, said he had begun learning Adobe Flash on his own. He intended to take as many gaming academy courses as he could in the year he'll have it available. Those will include certification in the Adobe creative suite.

"I'll at least get the experience and it will be there if I ever want to use it," he said.

The gaming academy is expected to be open to students from all over Pasco County.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected]

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