Bristol Bay video game tournament raises money for IT education

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NAKNEK, Alaska (KTUU) - An inaugural video game tournament in Naknek this weekend has raised almost $6,000 to help fund IT education in the Bristol Bay School District.

Photo courtesy Mary Swain

Seven teams from across the Bristol Bay Region competed in the first-person shooter “Call of Duty Black Ops III” for the title of champion of the bay. Entry fees and donations from corporate sponsors will go towards hiring an IT instructor to teach local students on subjects such as coding, computer programming, cyber security, and software development.

“Honestly our school is down to the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic. So we needed a way to be able to bring in an instructor that can teach all of the skills that are needed today in the job force as far as technology is concerned,” said tournament organizer Mary Swain.

Swain said the ultimate goal is to give local students the education they need to pursue careers in one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. In Alaska, Swain says there’s an increasing need for IT professionals in the state’s fisheries and the oil sector.

“We’re sitting on the banks of the biggest sockeye run of the world, and alongside those banks are processors,” she said. “They’re modernizing their facilities to go basically electronic. They’re still going to have people working in there, but all of their processes are being run by computers. Our children could be the ones running those plants for them."

This is the first year the Bristol Bay Gaming Invitational has been held. Swain says she hopes to establish a non-profit to solicit more corporate sponsorship for new education opportunities in the future.

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