Stiegler EdTech (SET) and UNC Greensboro Scholastic Esports Alliance (UNCG SEA) in partnership with the State of North Carolina are proud to announce their collaboration and expansion of the state’s first Varsity Esports & STEM League (VESL). This innovative program fully integrates competitive esports and workforce-relevant STEM curriculum into the athletic calendar across every county and high school in North Carolina with the full support and backing of the state.
The first major VESL tournament kicked off with Rocket League on November 6. Matches will be live-streamed on the VESL YouTube channel complete with color commentators and a “QuadBox” multi-stream viewing experience. Streams run from 6 pm-10 pm nightly during tournament play. Close to 100 teams from 80+ schools from across the state are participating. Teams will start in group play, similar to the World Cup, then play in the 1st and 2nd rounds of Qualifiers. Teams that advance past the 2nd round will qualify for Regional tournaments in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Wilmington to play for the right to go to Greensboro for State Championships in Rocket League this February. Upcoming games also include Super Smash Bros, Madden 24, and Valorant.
“This is an inflection point for the State of North Carolina as we become leaders in the ‘War for Talent’ both in terms of educating the next generation and our youth and also simultaneously strengthening our pipelines of talent for employers looking to hire strong tech talent,” remarks Charlotte City Council Member and SET Chairman Tariq Bokhari. “North Carolina will now be one of the first states to offer all its high school students a chance to learn how to code which is long overdue and will pay dividends for our citizens and the companies who choose to do business in our state.”
“This Varsity Esports and STEM League is a natural expansion of UNCG’s investment in the academic benefits of esports,” says Dr. David Wyrick, UNCG’s chief innovation officer. “This new partnership will allow high school students to not only gain STEM-related skills early but also prepare them for the workforce and college, including UNCG’s growing esports curriculum. UNCG continues to be a leader in the blending of academics and esports, and we are excited to bring this new opportunity to students across North Carolina.”
Born in response to the educational challenges onset by COVID-19 in 2020, VESL has worked with thousands of kids to keep them engaged in school while offering high school students a fun, immersive environment to compete against their peers and gain access to coaching and mentoring. VESL goes beyond just gaming by integrating workforce-relevant digital skills and emerging STEM topics into the curriculum.
Students participating in VESL will have the opportunity to play, compete, and learn. Participants will be encouraged to build digital resumes, making themselves more competitive for college applications and when directly entering the workforce. As the program expands, there will be opportunities in the future for students to earn high school and dual-enrollment credits along with industry-recognized certifications depending on the modules they choose. This will enable students to not only gain the critical coding and STEM skills shown to make students up to 10 times more likely to pursue STEM careers after graduation, but students can also potentially enroll in higher education with credits already completed, helping reduce student debt. Additionally, many of our esports athletes have gone on to be recruited by college coaches and it is common for competitors to receive scholarships to compete at the next level, further bolstering their financial ability to pursue post-secondary education.
A core goal of VESL is to provide access and opportunity to students from Title 1 schools and to bridge the digital divide, thus all programming is designed to be accessible by all students simply through their school-issued Google Chromebooks. VESL features direct partnerships with employers to align STEM education and ensure the content is relevant to industry demands. VESL builds optionality for students’ future careers – keeping them engaged in school while exposing them to coding, mentors, and career opportunities.
Learn more and get involved at www.VESL.gg. Let the games begin!