One of the University’s Strategic Priorities is to “enhance our teaching and learning environment.” As a result, St. John’s has built a new lab to help students prepare for careers in the multimillion-dollar video gaming industry, as well as use 3D printers to master innovative design technology.
Located on the Queens, NY, campus, the Technology Commons is designed to teach students about eSports, or electronic sports—the rapidly expanding world of competitive video games. The space is also home to 30 MakerBot 3D printers that help students execute their designs, from robots to prosthetic hands for individuals with disabilities.
St. John’s students have had access to 3D printers in the past, but the new Technology Commons was specifically built to centralize the technology. Students now learn and design in a single location that is perfectly suited for collaboration.
Anne Pacione, Executive Director, Infrastructure, and Interim Chief Information Officer, noted that working with MakerBot—a global leader in 3D printing—is a natural fit for St. John’s, given the rapid growth of the 3D printing job market.
“The University is committed to giving students every possible advantage for their future careers,” she said, adding, “Since September, students have logged more than 6,400 minutes of print time for more than 1,000 successful jobs in the new space, and these numbers are growing.”
“I really appreciate the consolidation of 3D printing technology on campus,” said Terri Kazuyo Dorsey, a junior majoring in Illustration with a minor in Fashion Studies. She added, “St. John’s has created an amazing opportunity for students to come together and incorporate innovative ideas into our personal and professional artistic abilities.”
Max A. Hergenrother, Director of Technology Operations in CPS, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Art and Design, stresses to his students that the possibilities with 3D printing are endless. “The imagination will be the only limiting factor in how this new type of manufacturing and design technology will be put to use,” he said. “3D printing is going to be like cell phones. In 10 years, everybody will be using a 3D printer.”
The second major focus of the Technology Commons is devoted to cultivating opportunities for students to learn more about and gain employment in eSports. There are currently 12 state-of-the-art gaming computers in the space for student gamers to practice and play against each other in eSports competitions.
While eSports imitates the experience of viewing a professional sporting event, spectators are actually watching video gamers compete against each other. These gaming events are often viewed in major arenas, and the games are divided into competing leagues and tournaments.
Since October, the BIG EAST Conference has been organizing intercollegiate eSports competitions in which St. John’s has been competing. St. John’s currently has one eSports team, the Rocket League; more games and competitions are expected to be added.
David P. Hedlund, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Division of Sport Management within CPS, said it was a priority for the University to make eSports available on campus. “There is large-scale interest on the part of students to watch and play eSports, video games, console games, and mobile app games.” He cited the more than 300 students who have joined the St. John’s eSports group since the fall.
The field of competitive video gaming also provides students with a wide variety of career opportunities in the sports industry (e.g., coaching, training, health and wellness); in business (e.g., management, marketing, finance, and sales); and with computers (e.g., game design, network design, and network security). The eSports market is currently valued at more than $900 million, according to the 2018 Global Esports Market Report from Newzoo, a global provider of games and eSports analytics. “Trained individuals are needed to help manage this burgeoning industry,” said Dr. Hedlund.
Anthony Narvaez, a senior majoring in Information Technology with a minor in French, has been honing his skills as a gamer in the Technology Commons, and now feels prepared for the ever-evolving job market.
“I know I can take my new skills with me into today’s workforce,” said Anthony, who is also a student worker assigned to maintaining the set of gaming computers. “I feel like I can open doors to almost anything I will ever need to succeed.”