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Playing to win: grant supports eSports club

grant winnerFrom Mario Kart to Super Smash Brothers, Robby Hernandez has played video games since he was a kid. Now, as a computer science teacher at Jefferson High School, Hernandez is supporting his students’ passion for eSports. 


“Most high schools have extracurricular activities targeted at athletics and fine arts,” Hernandez said. “However, there is a large group of students whose interests do not align with either of these categories. That’s why we have formed a competitive eSports team at Jefferson.”


eSports, a form of sport competition using video games, is on the rise in the global community, and Hernandez says students are beginning to see the possible careers they can pursue while doing what they love. 


“Unfortunately, schools do not have the required equipment to help these students find competitive success,” he said. “Even with the high-end computers the District can purchase, it still cannot run the games the students want to play without frames dropping, or low graphics that ruin the competitive experience.”


To help solve this problem, Hernandez applied for and received a $5,000 Innovative Grant through the SAISD Foundation to purchase high-end computer components for five computers. The high-speed computers will give students a chance to be part of a safe, eSports community within school walls. Plus, Hernandez will be working with his computer science students to build the computers from the ground up. 


“Just like our football team has the best protective gear and the band has finely tuned instruments, I want my eSports players to have access to quality hardware to compete,” he said. 

By using his Innovative Grant to order computers as components, the cost decreases drastically because the labor is no longer required. Hernandez will bring in experts from the SAISD  Technology Department and from local computer companies to present their love of computers while showing students how to build the machines properly. 


“Often, people balk at the idea of opening a computer and seeing all the wires,” said Hernandez. “By diving headfirst into a computer build, my students will learn there is nothing to fear when it comes to all those scary wires. One only needs to know how to handle everything properly. The hands-on experience will allow students to learn important knowledge and skills outside of a book. It's one thing to read about RAM, memory, CPUs, PSUs, and fans, but it's entirely more meaningful to hold all those parts in your hand.”


Before COVID hit, more than 50 students expressed interest during Hernandez’s initial information meeting about eSports at Jefferson.


“The community is behind growing eSports in education, and we are almost prepared to compete at the highest levels,” Hernandez said. “Students will become 21st-century learners as they gain valuable skills in teamwork, communication, and dexterity. Furthermore, as students train to become elite in their respective games, millions of dollars are being handed out in scholarships to schools such as Ohio State, Arizona State, St. Mary's, Texas A&M San Antonio, and Schreiner University. Our students deserve an opportunity to compete for all those awards.”


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