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K-12 Schools Get Competitive with Esports

By Elaine Shuck, Senior Marketing Manager, Aruba
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Teachers may be frustrated with their students’ YouTube Gaming or Twitch habits, but what our generation may not realize is that e-sports is a billion-dollar market. And it’s growing 26% year over year, according to Newzoo.

Esports is becoming increasingly popular as K12 schools incorporate STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics—into the curriculum to create an innovative learning environment where all students can engage and contribute. Gaming is being incorporated in everyday lesson plans. The High School Esports League even offers a free curriculum to help teachers incorporate gaming into the classroom.

Future animators, developers, engineers and product designers develop their creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills through esports and gaming. Many gamers don’t participate in traditional sports or other after-school activities, and esports is a great way for them to get involved and hang out with like-minded friends.

Competitive esports teams are springing up in high schools and colleges across the US. Competitive gamers are attracting the attention of university admissions offices and earning scholarships. In fact, 200 US colleges offered $16 million in esports scholarships in the 2018-2019 school year. That’s three times more scholarships than in 2015, according to the National Association of College Esports.

Competitive gamers are winning big long before they earn a college degree. This summer, 16-year old Kyle Giersdorf won $3 million at the first Fortnite World Cup.

Building an Esports Network
A solid IT infrastructure is a prerequisite for esports, whether as an after-school club or a competitive team. Gamers have ultra-high expectations and any lag time delay can mean losing the game.

Creating an esports club or team doesn’t have to be a big investment. Start by asking teachers and staff to be the sponsor. It’s likely that a number of faculty are already avid gamers. Many high school teams receive remote coaching through esports leagues, but you’ll still need a sponsor at your school sites.

To create an esports space, schools can start by sprucing up an old room and add gaming PCs, accessories and even ergonomic chairs. If your network can withstand the rigors of online assessments, your IT infrastructure may be beefy enough. Or schools may need to upgrade their existing network and Internet connection to make sure student competitors have the power and speed they need. You also may need to make firewall adjustments and whitelist video games during after-school hours.

Whether your school is ready to introduce esports or incorporate learning games into the curriculum, students today expect a flawless technology experience.

A Strong Foundation
Aruba can deliver the strong network foundation you need, with a broad portfolio of wired and wireless networking and security, to fit your school’s needs and budget.

Aruba’s campus switching portfolio is designed for operational simplicity and performance. Schools can choose the switches that best fit their needs, whether to support online assessments, esports or a STEAM-infused curriculum.

Many school districts are exploring Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), the latest generation of Wi-Fi, which delivers high-performance connectivity for mobile devices. The Aruba 510 series AP is designed to simultaneously serve multiple clients in dense environments like classrooms and esports facilities, and boosts overall network performance by up to 4X, compared to 802.11ac APs. And an Aruba network includes application assurance capabilities that optimizes the Wi-Fi 6 client experience with SLA-grade reliability.

And schools can stretch their budgets further with eRate funding.

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