Hundreds of African-American male and female students attended the Patriots Technology Training Center’s Video Gaming Conference Dec. 11. This year’s theme, “Imagine-Innovate-Serious Play II,” drew over 300 minority students for a fun and interactive day where they were exposed to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through the latest video gaming software, gaming design, flight simulation, digital art and animation. The 2nd Annual Conference, held at Possibility Prep Public Charter School in Largo, Md., was designed to help increase the number of African Americans who can find careers in the $50 billion video gaming industry.

Students like Micah Morrissey, a seventh-grader from Samuel Ogle Middle School, flew a simulated airplane using real-world pilot controls as Dr. Jay Collins explained aviation and aeronautics. “I had fun. I enjoyed the flight simulator the most,” said Micah. “I want to try making music and bring a friend the next time.” As young men like Micah dominated the hands-on gaming and simulation areas, they previewed the latest gaming technologies. Video gaming and sales expert Brandon Dortch, from Best Buy, showed students how to utilize the latest Xbox 360 software.

Dortch explained how Xbox video games like Dance Central use the Connect Camera to provide 3-D voice and facial recognition while the student mimics entire body movements of on-screen animated characters. “The big thing now is motion gaming,” said Dortch, “Wii started it years back but Xbox and Play Station have put out the latest in motion controls.”

Dortch said the purpose is to get families involved by getting the physical body moving and getting rid of the controller.

On the second floor, instructors like LeShell Hatley offered mini courses in animation, virtual worlds, making beats, game design and careers in video gaming. Hatley, recently listed as one of the “20 African-American Women in Tech Academia You Should Know,” shared her excitement with students to inspire them to enter technology and/or the video gaming industry. An expert in robotics and mobile application development for the Android, Hatley showed students how to conceptualize their own game designs using critical thinking and planning before you design at the computer.

Proud to have four women as workshop presenters, Thurman Jones, founder and president of Patriots, said, “We are trying to find a better way to get more girls involved in gaming and STEM programs. Patriots needs students to get involved with STEM programs, to show them how STEM programs can be fun. We can show how them to break things, fix, and then develop something. We need more people (in STEM) to work in government and corporate America.”

Patriots Technology Training Center has served the Prince George’s County area for 14 years.