A local girls’ eSport team has won international recognition with a first-place finish at the annual Girls Who Game STEM tournament.
“It’s just amazing,” said co-coach Melissa Dent, a Grade7 virtual teacher with the Lambton Kent District School Board.
“We were just astounded to be honest. All the other teams had more gaming experience than us. We really entered to have fun.”
The 10-member team of Grade 7 and 8 students, known as the Digital Divas, are not only the GWG STEM eSports Event Champions, they also received this year’s Citizenship Award for Canada after submitting a five-minute video they made about connecting and belonging to their community.
“I am very proud of them,” Dent said. “They worked so well together.”
The Feb. 3 online tournament pitted the local team against five others from across North America. Each had 10 minutes to build a virtual world and solve a problem – a decline in the bee population.
The Digital Divas formed in 2020 when Dent learned about Girls Who Game (GWG) and started an extracurricular GWG online club.
It was an ideal fit during the pandemic and proves that there is a positive side to virtual learning, she said.
“We know that 83% of North American girls aged 13 to 25 play video games, so why not engage them in something they like where they gain an appreciation for STEM subjects?”
STEM is the acronym of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The local club meets weekly with support from Dent, co-coach and P.E. McGibbon principal Melissa Holmes, and a few Grade 9 students. They’re assisted by Dell Technologies with partners Microsoft and Intel.
None of the team members have met physically and live throughout the school board, said Dent. But they accomplish big things together using Mindcraft to build virtual worlds.
“Every single one of these girls has gained a lot of self-confidence,” she said. “They are usually the quieter students and they have learned how to communicate respectfully, how to be team players and how to be creative.”
Dent said she’d like to see more GWG clubs start locally because it’s a good way to introduce potential STEM careers and find online solutions to real world problems.
“We know they are gaming anyway, so why not build on that and give students voice and choice, to demonstrate their learning to us and display their skills?” said Dent.
The idea of engaging girls to pursue science and tech through eSports was started by Dell Tehnologies in 2019 with about 50 participants. Today, more than 2,200 girls from three countries are in 221 clubs.
“These girls are our future innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders,” said Katina Papulkas, Dell’s senior education strategist. “Our hope with Girls Who Game is to spark an everlasting interest in STEM needed to solve society’s most pressing problems for future generations.”
The Digital Divas who took part in this year’s competition included Asha Shoaib, Salem Billings, Hailey Pfile, Emma Richardson, Izabelle Williams, Emily Veenkamp, Melissa Veenkamp, Emma Wellington and Zoe Williams.