National City is offering a free eSports program where teens ages 13 to 17 can learn how to build a desktop computer, use a 3-dimensional printer, broadcast streams and develop other skills that potentially elevates gaming from a hobby to growing career skills.
Recreation Coordinator Elyana Delgado said they heard feedback from parents who said they “wanted their kids to do more than just game online” so the city of National City slated part of their Community Block Development Grant funding toward the program. The eSports program was designed so teens could stand apart from their younger peers in day camps and keep busy while learning skills for the future in a fun setting.
Delgado said there are four scrapped computers set aside and waiting for participants to pull components and learn how to build a computer which can be used in the program. Teens will also learn how to record and edit material in-house which they can later broadcast as they learn about streaming.
Using the 3-D printer requires participants to first learn how to use necessary software, a skill in itself. After learning about the printer, Delgado said, participants will be able to create gaming-related figurines. With free blueprints available, teens can choose to print a wide variety of items from character models to a miniature catapult, or learn how to design their own plans.
Additionally, they will learn the concepts behind blockchain technology, Delgado said, a type of shared database that links information through cryptography rather than traditional databases. Job fields that rely on blockchain expertise are among the fastest growing in the United States, according to both Forbes and Business Insider.
They won’t learn anything too advanced, but it is so they can get their minds around block chain, how it can be applied to real world uses in the future… We really wanted to reach an underserved teen population and they might not have an opportunity to learn something like this anywhere else,” Delgado said.
Two staff members were hired for the program precisely because they are involved with gaming and electronics, and can “bring the newest things they hear about,” Delgado said with one staffer more experienced in personal computers and the other more well-versed in console gaming.
“Some kids come in and they’ve already learned the basics of coding in school, they know more than what staff thought they’d be exposed to and they’re ready to learn more. Our staff wants teens to learn how these skills can be used not just for gaming in a living room but also for their future,” Delgado said.
The idea, she said, came from programming they learned about in an online conference at the start of the pandemic. A presenter from Maricopa, AZ said it had been a hit in their city, Delgado said, and staff decided to implement something similar in National City. The program is not impossible to maintain if COVID cases drive families back inside and Delgado said they have already talked about what they can explore from home if that happens but are keeping their options open.
In an effort to reach wider than current participants, they are offering $20 Casa bucks, fictional dollars teens can use at Casa de Salud to purchase snacks like hot pockets and other treats on site.
The program meets after school Mondays through Wednesdays and is open solely to National City residents, who must register in person at Casa de Salud, 1408 Harding Ave.
Roughly 14 spaces are still available for the program. Call Casa de Salud at (619) 336-4290 for more information.