Madeline Murch, a 16-year-old Sunlake High junior, was fired up about what she learned at "Get in the Game," a video-game development summer camp for young women held July 29-August 2 at the Electronic Arts' Tiburon studio in Maitland.
"This experience was way more than I thought it would be," said Murch, the only Pasco County student selected to attend the camp that included 14 other top applicants from central Florida.
Murch first tried video games when she was about 10. A cousin introduced her to Minecraft, the top-selling video game that allows players to use blocks to build, modify or destroy without a specific objective. Murch became interested in programming, but learned the area of study was largely male-dominated.
"I remember one class where there were 23 guys and only 2 girls," she said.
The summer camp had the young women working in small groups, learning from one another and creating video games together. The camp introduced them to game development and coding lessons and encouraged them to pursue higher education in computer science.
Murch was a Pasco eSchool student during the 2018-2019 school year. While involved in an Advanced Placement Computer Science course, she received an email and a camp application from teacher Lea Weber, who said she and eSchool principal Joanne Glenn felt Murch was a great candidate for the camp.
"In the classroom, she gained knowledge and techniques through computer science that she saw could apply to projects that would build and strengthen her community," Weber said. "This not only represents eSchool well, but represents herself well."
Murch's camp application included an essay about why she would like to attend the camp.
"What she shared reflected her unique passions for video games, technology, natural curiosity and desire to help others. I remember her making a comment about how video games make the world feel small through the connections we can make with others," said Daryl Holt, vice-president and head of operations for EA SPORTS Worldwide Studios.
Murch said the camp focused her career goals.
"This week's experience has helped me know I'll definitely do something with technology, probably gaming," said Murch.
"She's a high school student who wants to be part of a bigger picture. Very impressive young woman with a bright future," said Weber.
Electronic Arts is a leader in interactive entertainment. The company first offered "Get in the Game" for young women during the summer of 2018. The summer camp is free and presents each participant with a free laptop.
Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. She writes feature stories with an education focus for Pasco and Hernando counties. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.