UNCG is extending its integration of gaming and education to North Carolina high schools, as the University builds the nation’s premiere end-to-end talent development pipeline for high-tech and STEM-centered careers.
The First League of its Kind
On Monday, January 23, UNCG announced the launch of the UNCG Scholastic Esports Alliance (UNCG SEA) — the nation’s first university-led, curriculum-focused statewide high school esports league.
UNCG SEA was formed in partnership with Esports Development and Growth Enterprise (EDGE) and Esports Integration, which will manage operations, create and deliver a world-class curriculum, and sanction regional and state esports competitions.
Just as high school athletic programs support physical education, UNCG SEA will provide all North Carolina public high schools an opportunity to form esports teams with complementary STEM-based academics. Esports teams in the league will compete against teams across the state, and all participating schools will be provided with a STEM-focused, Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway-aligned curriculum that links to academic offerings at UNCG.
Fueling an Industry
The primary mission of UNCG SEA is to enhance educational outcomes for students, establish an end-to-end talent development pipeline for N.C. industry, and position the state as the nation’s leading esports economy.
In 2021, 465.1 million people watched live-streamed gaming content. By 2024, viewership is expected to reach 577.8M. Esports is now the fastest growing spectator sport, which has spurred forward thinking institutions to adopt gaming-integrated education in order to develop tomorrow’s STEM and technology workforce.
“UNCG strives to serve as a national model for excellence and access in higher education — prioritizing opportunities to equip students from all backgrounds with the knowledge and skills critical to success in life and high-demand fields in emerging economic sectors like esports,” said Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. “We are equally committed to developing the talent that will fuel North Carolina’s economy, and establishing UNCG and Greensboro as the nation’s hub for esports innovation and economic impact. UNCG SEA will help us do both.”
Through collaborations with Epic Games and other esports and technology leaders, UNCG SEA plans to offer participating schools a four-year, CTE pathway-aligned curriculum that incorporates Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. These curriculum offerings will be provided along with two competitive seasons featuring Rocket League, Fortnite and other possible titles for the academic year beginning fall 2023.
Getting into the Game
The pilot season of the league’s competitive play is set for this spring with full curriculum offerings beginning next fall. Public high schools in the SparkNC program – a network of school districts working to enhance pathways to high-tech employment – have been the first to register for UNCG SEA’s 7-week pilot season. Interested N.C. public high schools can learn more about the free pilot season and register to participate by visiting esports.uncg.edu/sea.
“Our school district members are eager for their high schools to participate in the UNCG SEA pilot competitions this spring,” said SparkNC’s Executive Director Joe Ableidinger. “They are equally excited to lead the way in giving students access to cutting-edge curriculum and learning experiences through this partnership.”
In addition to providing learning experiences, UNCG SEA will expand high school extracurricular opportunities for students who love gaming, and broaden the inclusivity of high school sports. Furthermore, playoffs and state championship tournaments, held in the state-of-the-art UNCG Esports Arena and Learning Lab, will provide a glimpse into life on a college campus for hundreds of high school students.
“As a leader in esports educational services, it is part of our mission to create impactful opportunities for learner development and growth,” said EDGE CEO and Co-founder Chris Scroggins. “By partnering with UNCG to launch a curriculum-first league in North Carolina, we are excited to provide a truly holistic and sustainable league model where participants experience an esports-centric curriculum, competition, and community.”
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Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications.