HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA – AUGUST 2022: There is no denying the immense popularity of esports and video gaming around the world. So popular, in fact, that ninety percent of kids play video games and entire sports arenas sell out for fans to watch their favorite gaming stars compete. But what if this gaming technology could be used as a purposefully constructive educational tool for the local community? What if the technology and creativity that goes into creating a video game could be transitioned into targeted curriculum disguised as entertainment? This is precisely the vision of the team behind Whitaker Center and Ted Black, president, and CEO of Whitaker Center, for the newly created, 7,000-square-foot PNC Innovation Zone.
Says Black, “We saw an opportunity within gaming for a perfect vehicle into learning.” The PNC Innovation Zone is a first in its category – a ground-breaking venue dedicated to experiential learning in disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, arts, and math for kids eight years and up, plus teens and others who may be “aging out” of the current offerings of the science center here. “Our vision was to create a purposeful gaming studio that attracts younger audiences and engages them at higher levels and to develop a space that fits more with Whitaker Center’s traditional initiative of bringing arts and science education together under one roof. The new PNC Innovation Zone does just that and then some.”
The “Purposeful Gaming” programming is built upon exploration of the rich educational opportunities in STEM and STEAM represented by video games. The idea is that every popular video game needs a story written, characters developed, coding executed, visual graphics created, and numerous other specific professional disciplines brought to bear. Each of these disciplines is an area of foundational knowledge that can translate into satisfying professional careers across many fields. Black explains, “It’s like the idea of finding creative ways to get kids to eat their vegetables. Purposeful gaming is a way to have youngsters learn amazing things without necessarily knowing they’re learning. The PNC Innovation Zone is not an arcade where you pay per hour to play games but rather a host of scheduled programs, classes, and camps, that engage and challenge students to think in terms of the computer science and storytelling behind video games like Minecraft. Let’s say a child is interested in video games. Would they consider how to make their own video game? Well, once they say yes to that, they’re saying yes to coding, storytelling, graphic design, to that whole world. What a wonderful thing!”
Whitaker Center partnered with Lititz, PA-based Clair Global Integration and nationally recognized, PA-based, educational architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates (CR&A) to create, design, and build out the PNC Innovation Zone. Shaun Clair, executive vice president of sales at Clair Global, says, “When we first learned about this visionary project, we immediately became interested in joining the design team and building out this space. As a global leader in technology and production, we were thrilled at the prospect of empowering young people to explore STEAM in a new and exciting way.” Adds Joe Bunting, vice president of sales for Clair Global Integration, “It’s always important for us to interact with the community as much as we can. It fosters the next generation of people who will have the passion, specific knowledge, and experience to perhaps come work alongside us someday.” Arif Hasanbhai, project manager from CR&A, says, “The goal of the project was to inspire, excite and empower a generation to connect in a digitally-infused world. The architecture was simply an extension of our whole team’s collective vision. A core value at our firm is that architecture and interior design are primarily about how people experience the built environment. So, it’s been rewarding to see this finished space delivering on its promise to the community.”
“When we first envisioned this project,” explains Black, “we knew we needed to do something special to make this “cool” so that it would appeal to teenagers and older learners who typically “age out” of our science center. Getting Clair Global involved at this early design phase, versus having them come in at the end as a vendor, made a huge difference. From the concept stage, we needed to have “cool” embedded in the DNA of the project and that is exactly what Clair did for us! They hypothesized and executed audio/visual solutions that none of us had considered.” At full build out, the PNC Innovation Zone will have capacity for thirty high-end computer rigs which include a PC tower, screen, keyboard, mouse, and headphones. Each station features a connected desk, gaming chair and the ability to connect to one of the eight large screen TVs in the space. Whitaker Center already has its eyes set on 2023, now booking exciting educational student field trips to the Zone.
Whitaker Center was founded more than twenty years ago by a group of extraordinary community and business leaders whose vision was to bring the arts and sciences together. Purposeful gaming at the PNC Innovation Zone is a natural extension of Whitaker Center founders’ visionary leadership. Black concludes, “By leveraging the popularity of video games and esports to stimulate interest in STEAM activities such as coding, graphic design, and computer networking, PNC Innovation Zone will serve to break down gender and equity barriers in technology and will, ultimately, inspire the digital leaders of tomorrow.”
ABOUT CLAIR GLOBAL Building on over 50 years of experience, Clair Global is a technology company known for boldly advancing technology-driven experiences. Specializing in live production services and integrated technology installations, Clair Global serves a wide range of vertical markets worldwide. The company’s portfolio includes providing audio, backline, communications, and data for live productions as well as audio, video, lighting, IT services, control, and broadcast for permanent installs. Clair Global innovates and delivers solutions that move, connect, and inspire our world. Clair Global is headquartered in Lititz, PA with locations worldwide and is a proud member of the Rock Lititz Community.