HHF Applies STEM Principals to the Arts

Alberto Avalos

Innovation and Technology Program Manager

Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s commitment to increasing minority involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers is often applied to the arts as well.

Hispanic Heritage Foundation President and CEO Antonio Tijerino was invited by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to present the LOFT Video Gaming Innovation Initiative as a case study during the Minorities in STEM Workshop on February 25, 2014. The LOFT Video Gaming Innovation initiative was a partnership between HHF and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) through HHF’s Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) program. HHF also developed the Computer Coding Jam Sessions with Google which are being executed in over 10 markets across America as minority middle school and high school students are taught the basics of coding.

The LOFT Video Gaming Innovation initiative focused on challenging minority youth, ages 15-25 across the country, to develop a video game or phone app which addressed a social issue. Twenty minority youth were selected as Fellows and presented their ideas to Members of Congress, White House Officials and community leaders in December. They also received an innovation grant to further their ideas. LOFT will work with the Fellows to maximize their impact on the community going forward.

The Computer Coding Jam sessions kicked off in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and in Austin, TX during the South by Southwest Festival and will be jamming to classrooms in Chicago, Miami, Silicon Valley, New York, Pittsburgh, and other markets.

“The LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship and the LOFT Computer Coding Jam Sessions were inspired by a meeting last year convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy,” said Tijerino. “At the core of the initiative is the belief that using technology for social change or career paths is essential to not only the advancement of minority communities, but America as a nation. Through this creative partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, we continue to engage youth on their terms and where they live.”

HHF’s award-winning LOFT leadership and workforce development program is divided into 10 “Tracks,” or industries, which are priorities for America including Innovation & Technology, Science & Healthcare, Engineering, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Education, Public Service, Law, Media & Entertainment, and Latinas.

More recently, East Los Angeles College (ELAC), Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s (HHF) Leaders On Fast Track program (LOFT), Department of Education, Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and other partners presented the third segment in ELAC’s Mixing Arts & Science series on May 15 from 6-8 p.m. at the ELAC auditorium (1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754). The purpose was to introduce and encourage Latinos to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers through video gaming, in which Hispanics and other minorities are over indexed as users.  Art is being added to the traditional STEM categories making it STEAM.

“At the core of LOFT’s video gaming initiatives is the belief that using technology for social change or career paths is essential to not only the advancement of minority communities, but America as a nation,” said Emanuel Pleitez, Chair of HHF and an LA native. “Through this creative partnership with ELAC, DOE and ESA, we are engaging youth on their terms, through video games. The link from playing a video game to developing one to computer coding, cybersecurity and other skills gap areas is part of the strategy for this effort in Los Angeles.”

The event, titled “The Art of Video Games,” featured video gaming industry experts highlighting the connection between playing video games to developing them to entertaining careers in technology which would fill an ever-growing skills gap in America. Public officials and other leaders from the area also participated including Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Pleitez, and Los Angeles City General Manager Jan Perry.  The students explored career opportunities, learned employment forecast, participated in interactive and hands-on demonstrations from video game companies, and formed connections to help build a seamless integration of STEM and the Arts. A reception immediately followed the event.