The Verde Valley isn’t particularly known for its tech industries, but with any luck the next decade will see a boom in jobs created and housed in the area.
Prior to his election to mayor of Cottonwood last year, Timothy Elinski expressed a desire to see the Verde Valley become an “entrepreneurial hub” for tech-friendly companies, and praised community efforts to make the Verde Valley Sci-Tech Festival such a success.
This year’s festival kicks off Sunday, Feb. 23, and culminates with its signature event, the Verde Valley SciTech Expo, on Monday, March 3, at Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus. During the expo, the college hopes to showcase how STEAM subjects — science, technology, engineering, art and math — are incorporated into their programs.
“Our goal is to spark interest in scientific and artistic study in people of all ages and inspire the next generation of STEAM enthusiasts,” James Perey, YCVVC executive dean, stated. “Yavapai College is pleased to be a strong partner in this family-oriented festival.”
Front and center for this year’s expo is the Yavapai College Video Game Development program, which was brought to Yavapai College in 2012 by then-director Bruce Kirkpatrick. First offered as a Video Game Developer Certificate, it has expanded into an online Associate of Applied Science degree program.
“Students who work through the Video Game Development courses are introduced to several skills needed into today’s work force,” Ruth Alsobrook-Hurich, the program’s current director, said. “They learn critical thought, research methods, written and oral communication, teamwork and marketing, to name a few.
“Each class builds upon the last, providing a nice flow in the learning process .... Video game development is also a wonderful fit with computer science and computer networking. It’s just a fun way to learn the facts about computer skills and programming languages.”
Alsobrook-Hurich admitted that finding employment in video games is a major challenge in the Verde Valley, which boasts only a few “small-time creators” but no infrastructure or culture to support the industry. Even in larger urban areas, jobs are few and applicants many.
Knowing this is the case for her students, Alsobrook-Hurich said that she encourages them to broaden their skill set so that they are marketable to more than one industry and task.
“For those who ask me, I suggest they learn computer networking as well as video game development,” Alsobrook-Hurich said. “With the latter skill, employment is easier to obtain. With this financial part taken care of, they are free to continue to gain skills with the development of games [and] hone in on their talent.”
Along with the expo, Yavapai College is hosting two SciTech Festival additions this year: A free film screening and a free concert.
The Wednesday, March 1, screening of “Spare Parts,” about a team of robot builders, will be followed by a question and answer session with Film & Media Arts faculty member Dave Lehleitner, a production assistant for the film. The film presentation starts at 5:30 p.m. in the community room in Building M at the Clarkdale campus.
The Thursday, March 2, concert featuring guitarist Anthony Mazzella starts at 5 p.m., also in Building M at the Clarkdale campus. Yavapai College Southwest Wine Center student-produced wines and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase early in the concert.
For more information and a full schedule of SciTech Festival events, visit vvscitech.org. For other inquiries about the festival, call Christine E. Griffin at (928) 592-2210.