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Inaugural GAMCON in Bremerton showcases what STEM/STEAM skills can produce

On July 5 and 6, our first GAMCON (Gaming, Anime and Music Convention — www.gamconvention.com/) is coming to the Kitsap Conference Center at Harborside in Bremerton. This local incarnation is similar to those which enjoy huge success in other parts of the country. West Sound Technology Association (WSTA) is a premier Kickstarter backer of this event, thanks to a generous donation on its behalf by Professional Options, a longtime WSTA supporter and sponsor. Blake Perdue, an avid nerd from Bremerton, used Kickstarter to get this event launched.

Besides the entertainment value of cool games, local artists and musical talent, gaming in particular offers opportunities as a significant contributor to many other areas of the economy. For example, you may know that Washington state is a worldwide leader in computer gaming development, in synergy with the huge presence of software and technology firms in the Puget Sound region. Regional strategies for our economy involve connecting our talent and firms with those throughout the state, and beyond. 

Gaming technology also has crossover applications with education, mobility and application development. It is an introductory tool used to teach elementary students the foundations of programming and control. Understanding and manipulation of 2D and 3D graphics develop skills for working with visual data. When Paulo Younse, a dynamic Mars robotics engineer from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories, recently came to visit students on Bainbridge Island, his message stressed that future engineers need to master Computer Aided Design and graphics manipulation. Robotics is the future and will play an increasing role in the economy with advanced manufacturing.

Music and Art also develop creativity and “whole brain” techniques. Art, when combined with the other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines, becomes STEAM, supporting the full range of skills for innovation and entrepreneurship.

WSTA is continuing its leadership role in helping support increased student access to STEM and STEAM initiatives, including events such as GAMCON. Our efforts over many years to lobby for STEM curriculum and drive an innovative high-tech economy — in partnership with heavy hitters like Technology Alliance, Code.org, Olympic College and DigiPen — are paying off. Washington state now supports IT courses for high school graduation, and Olympic College has a four-year Information Technology degree program beginning this fall. 

Since last year, our working partnership with Code.org and DigiPen are also netting exciting results. Bremerton and Bainbridge Island school districts are two of only a select few around the nation with ongoing Code.org partnerships to increase access to programming skills. Last year 5,000 Kitsap students participated in Hour of Code and we’ve teamed  up with Microsoft and Voices for Innovation to involve even more this year.

A WSTA, DigiPen, Olympic College and West Sound Skills Technical Center partnership yielded ProjectFun summer workshops in digital gaming (and instructor jobs!) that will be held from July 14 to Aug. 1 at Olympic College’s Bremerton Campus. 

Special thanks go to Professional Options for not only donating WSTA’s top sponsorship for GAMCON 2014, but for providing tablets for our booth so kids and others can experiment with Scratch and Hour of Code programming.

So when you come to GAMCON 2014 for the entertainment value and fun, know that the future is filled with this and more than meets the eye. See you there!

• Charles Keating is president of Keating Consulting Service (www.kcsco.com), an IT consulting firm serving global clients since 1983. He is also a partner in K2 Strategic Solutions (www.k2strategic.com) and Professional Options (www.professionaloptions.org), and current president and co-founding member of West Sound Technology Association.


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