Black Colleges Use Esports to Attract Students and Hook them on Science and Engineering

Black Colleges Use Esports to Attract Students and Hook them on Science and Engineering

The holiday gift that keeps teenagers on the sofa with game controllers in their hands may help parents pay their college tuition. For some, training to compete in cyberspace contests like Fortnite and NBA2K could soon replace training for team sports — and create a new scholarship pipeline and professional opportunities after graduation.

Gaming and esports are becoming sources of camaraderie and competition for students at HBCUs. Three of the four HBCU athletic conferences have corporate partnerships with developers of gaming platforms that allow students to compete against on-campus peers as well as students at schools in their conferences. And this popular form of social entertainment is quickly becoming more than just a pastime.

“Having an esports presence is very important to our institutions in the future,” Southwestern Athletic Conference Associate Commissioner Jason Cable said.

Fortnite is a wildly popular videogame whose best players can compete for college scholarship money. (Epic Games)

Esports teams and individuals compete head-to-head in live online competitions. The industry has grown rapidly worldwide, with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion and global audiences of more than 443 million, according to research by Green Man Gaming.

Most conventional sports franchises took financial losses last spring as American sports leagues postponed events and slashed their schedules to avoid exposing players and fans to the coronavirus. Esports tournaments picked up the slack through sports network TV. College and high school students looking for new ways to live, work, learn and play turned to competitive video gaming more than ever, making esports a cultural force.

Total enrollment at America’s 101 black colleges and universities dropped by 6,000 in the 2018-19 school year. School administrators see a new way to help recover.

“Our institutions are looking to increase enrollment and retain students, and esports gives them a chance to do both,” Cable said.  “It’s the next big thing.”

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said gaming and esports, which are grounded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, benefit students academically.

“The move into esports aligns with the educational experience in STEM and overall strategic plan that remains consistent with efforts to continuously grow our brand and advance our students,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams’ athletic conference is one of three dedicated HBCU sports leagues that have attracted corporate sponsorships for competitive gaming platforms and tournaments while athletic sports remain on partial hiatus.

Gamers can compete in tournaments for scholarship money and for the attention of professional sports franchises that may hire the esports movement’s most talented competitors. There were 500 known esports franchises that earned between $95,000 and $36 million in tournaments by the end of 2019, according to Esports Earnings, which tracks the flow of money in the nascent industry. Some socially distant tournaments award as much as $750,000 in prize money.

Educators are more excited about the impact on black students’ professional opportunities when they embrace STEM fields as part of their immersive gaming experience. Programming, software development and cybersecurity can give them the inside track on lucrative career paths.  Some are groomed through academic programs as early as high school, preparing them for athletic esports scholarships.

More than 100 U.S. and Canadian schools offer esports scholarships, following the lead of Robert Morris University Illinois, an institution that has since merged into Roosevelt University. Robert Morris Illinois offered subsidies for members of its first varsity-level Sports League of Legends team in 2014. Some packages today can be worth as much as $76,000 over four years of competitive eligibility. The most talented gamers can defray half of their tuition, room and board.

HBCUs aren’t offering scholarships but want students to think outside their Xbox. HBCU Heroes, a nonprofit launched by former NCAA and NBA champion George Lynch and business partner Tracey Pennywell, raises money to help those schools level the playing field with competitive scholarship offers to student athletes. Now that platform includes esports.

The most talented gamers in America can earn college scholarships that cover half of their tuition, room and board expenses. (campuspartymexico/CC)

Larger universities have vastly more support from sponsors and alumni than most HBCUs.

“My experience at [the University of] North Carolina was on a whole other level,” Lynch said. “We played in the ACC [Atlantic Coast Conference], who had the big TV deal, then went to the Final Four and brought back millions of dollars to subsidize the Olympic sports. But most of the traditional HBCUs that we played when I was coaching didn’t have the funding in the athletic department to support the student-athlete’s needs.”

Lynch saw how tight budgets held back athletes at small black colleges while he was head men’s basketball coach at Clark Atlanta University.

“We learned that STEM and cybersecurity is part of gaming,” Lynch said. “Our goal is to fund 12 labs at HBCUs where students can have a curriculum in STEM and develop their skills that give them options other than [major universities] to learn about them.”

Texas Southern University in Houston has extended its sports management program to include an esports curriculum. The interdisciplinary approach is focused on the management side of staging events, designing games and developing sound systems.

Dr. Kenyatta Cavil, interim associate dean of academic affairs in TSU’s College of Education, said he oversaw development of the program to empower students.

“We want the students to get out of the mindset of just being on the couch. We want them to know what’s on the other side of the games,” Cavil said. “We’re trying to be intentional about getting HBCU students into the business segment of the [esports] marketplace.”

(Edited by David Martosko and Jameson O’Neal.)



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India Beckons Foreign Artists ‘Home’

India Beckons Foreign Artists ‘Home’

CHENNAI—India has always held a certain mystique for people from Western countries. While for many the fascination may be fleeting, for a few performing artists who have made India their home, it is now an enduring affair.

Here are some of their stories:

Marie Elangovan

Marie Elangovan, who is French-Canadian, was a student of religious studies in Montreal when she stumbled upon a Bharatnatyam video at her university library. That was when she decided to learn the art form in the place of its birth, the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.

“The performer in the video, clad in a red sari, dancing in the backdrop of a temple, left me spellbound,” said Elangovan. “I fell in love with the art form.”

Unable to find a full-time teacher in Montreal, she realized that she had to come to India if she wanted to learn the dance.

“I felt at home in India right from the beginning,” said Elangovan. “I had to make some adjustments, but they added color to my life.”

Some of the adjustments she made included not sitting in parks by herself, and meeting but not greeting strangers like she would in Canada. However, it was all worth it, she said, because she got to learn Bharatanatyam — which is what drew her to India in the first place.

Elangovan ended up marrying Elangovan Govindarajan, the son of her Bharatanatyam teacher, K. J. Govindarajan, further enhancing her assimilation into her adopted culture.

Sharon Lowen

Sharon Lowen, a U.S. citizen from Detroit, came to India in 1973 on a Fulbright scholarship to study Manipuri dance, a classical form from northeast India, under the tutelage of Guru Singhajit Singh.  She also learned Odissi, a dance form from the eastern state of Odisha, from guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

“Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra said I learned faster than anybody else,” she said.

Lowen settled down in India in the 1980s, though she maintains close ties with the United States and will be voting in the upcoming elections there.

Lowen said that it has been easy for her to thrive in India because she is accepted as a performer in a country where a classical dancer has to be exceptional to pass muster.

“I decided to stay on in India because here I was doing something worthwhile,” she said. “ I was learning about Indian languages and creating good work.”

While Lowen did not know any Indian language when she  arrived, she did not let that hinder her growth. She would ask people to translate poetry for her and then read more about [the poets] to understand the nuances of their work.

Sonali Mishra

Sonali Mishra poses for a photo in Bhubaneshwar, India in August 2019. (Courtesy: Srikant Panda)

Odissi dancer Sonali Mishra is of Indian ancestry, but she was born and raised in the United States. She moved to India permanently in 2011 after marrying into an Indian family.

Her decision was also triggered by her love for India and her comfort level with its culture. Mishra had visited India often to learn Odissi, before she got married.

“I moved here because I got married, but dance made it easier to take that decision because I was familiar with the culture and context of life here,” said Mishra.

She said that since she married into an Odiya family, she is no longer considered a foreigner in the eyes of the people in her dance class. But that comes with added responsibilities, she said..

“The label of a foreigner or American ceased to exist,” said Mishra. “As a dancer, I had to work harder to raise my standard to that of the level of dancers in India.”

Just like Lowen, Mishra feels at home in India as well as in the United States.

Christopher Guruswamy

Christopher Guruswamy, a Chennai-based Bharatnatyam dancer who grew up in Australia, said that he did not think he would end up living  in Chennai after his training at the premier dance institute—Kalakshetra—ended.

“I came to India only to go to Kalakshetra; I did not plan to stay on after that,” said Guruswamy.

However, a chat he had with the then director of Kalakshetra , Leela Samson, an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer, led to his decision to stay in Chennai.

“Leela Akka (sister) asked me what I would do in Perth,” said Guruswamy. “She felt I was a good dancer and should pursue it seriously so I extended my stay for a year.”

Guruswamy has now been in Chennai for 15 years.

“I like how Chennai is quieter than other cities,” he said. “When I go to places like Mumbai, I realize how much of a Chennai boy I am.”

Zophia Lichota

Zophia Lichota poses for a photo in New Delhi, India in June 2016. (Courtesy: Joginder Dogra)

While some dancers have stayed permanently in India, others with work commitments have had to leave and then come back whenever they could. Zophia Lichota is one.

Based in Poland, Lichota has been coming to India on a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. She felt that if she wanted to train seriously, she had to come to India.

“Indian art forms aren’t taught in Europe the way they are in India,” she said.

After coming to India, she started training in Odissi and Kuchipudi. Earlier, she worked from her home in India so that she could keep up employment and still learn a new dance.

An analyst with a global auditing firm, Lichota plans to take a sabbatical so that she can spend more time in India learning Odissi and Kuchipudi.

“I will use my sabbatical to learn and perform in India,” she said.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)



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Ancient Amphora Found Off Spain’s East Coast

Ancient Amphora Found Off Spain’s East Coast

Two priceless amphoras from the 4th century B.C. of Iberian/pre-Roman origin have been recovered near the shores of a popular beach on Spain’s eastern Costa Blanca. The containers, one almost complete and the other broken into several pieces, were found just off shore in about 10 feet (3 meters) of water by a diver who immediately notified the local police and archaeological authorities in Denia.

Amphoras are generally large with a solid profile, narrow mouth and usually two handles. They typically have a pointed bottom and characteristic shape and size which fit tightly against each other.

The storage jars were originally produced by the Phoenicians (1,400 B.C. to 539 B.C.), but the Iberians—ancient inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula who inhabited the area just before the Roman period—quickly imitated their production to transport liquids for commercial trade.

Archaeologists recovered one virtually complete amphora, as well as the fragments of another, by Aug. 6. They are said to be the first found in the western Mediterranean. They are more typically found along trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean.

Asuncion Fernandez, director of the Centre for Underwater Archaeology of the Valencian Community, said such amphoras are “not common on this coast.”

“There are similar amphoras discovered in other areas, which indicates that there was trade on the Valencian coasts between Ibiza, Alicante and the north in Ampurias, near Girona in Catalonia,” said Fernandez. “What we still do not know is where they were heading to, or where they were produced, or what they contained.”

An analysis carried out on other amphoras previously found on the Balearic Island of Menorca determined they transported molasses with grape seeds, creating a product experts say was similar to wine. If it had been wine, the seeds would not have been found, Fernandez said.

The amphora found in the seabed and rescued by divers. (Cultura G. Valencia/Real Press)

 

The underwater archaeological site where the amphora was found. (Cultura G. Valencia/Real Press)

 

Divers taking the artifact out of the water. (Cultura G. Valencia/Real Press)

Another intriguing find near the Costa Blanca amphora were fragments of what might be ships that carried the containers, although that has not yet been determined. “More detailed studies of the naval structure would have to be done to determine the provenance of the wreckage,” Fernandez said. “These ships could be Iberian or from the Roman period. We still don’t know.”

The amphoras were non-returnable containers, and once the content had been transferred to another container, they were discarded, often into the sea.

Fernandez asks that anyone finding such items be mindful of their historic importance. “People who are not aware of what all of this means sometimes destroy these pieces,” he said.

Spain’s heritage law says that any historic remains found must be taken to the nearest museum that has the resources to maintain them. “In this case, the finds have already been deposited in the Archaeological Museum of Denia,” Fernandez said.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Gugliociello) 



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Column Bearing Roman Gods Discovered In Germany

Column Bearing Roman Gods Discovered In Germany

An ancient column that could date back as far as the 5th century has been unearthed in Germany.

The column, bearing images of the Roman god Jupiter and three other deities, is believed to have been deposited in a well at the site of what is now a commercial lignite mine.

Archaeologists recently made the discovery in the town of Kerpen, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside Cologne. The column dedicated to Jupiter was broken, with the experts saying it might have been damaged after being thrown down the well sometime between the 2nd and 5th centuries, possibly by Christians seeking to destroy remnants of the pagan gods.

The badly damaged image at the foot of the column, believed to have once been more than 16 feet (5 meters) tall, is believed to be a depiction of Jupiter himself. The three other images are better preserved and show three female goddesses: Juno, the wife of Jupiter; Minerva, the goddess of wisdom; and very likely Nemesis-Diana, the goddess of just vengeance, according to the archaeologists.

THE ROLE OF ROMAN MYTHS

“Jupiter is the supreme deity of the Roman pantheon and he is therefore often worshiped throughout the Roman Empire,” Jens Schubert of the Rhineland Regional Council‘s Office for Ground Monument Preservation in the Rhineland told Zenger News.  “Columns devoted to him are quite common in the Rhineland and elsewhere in the Roman provinces.”

A relief with the representation of three Roman goddesses came to light in the well, which comes from a Jupiter column. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

 

The montage shows all three goddesses depicted on the column relief: Juno on the left, Nemesis-Diana in the middle, and Minerva on the right. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

 

In the well there was also the damaged sculpture of the highest Roman god Jupiter, who crowned the column named after him. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

The three deities — Jupiter, Juno and Minerva — are the so-called Capitoline Triad, the main deities of the city Rome who are often depicted together. “The portrayal of Nemesis-Diana is more unusual,” Schubert said. “There’s only one other piece of evidence [like it] in the Rhineland and only a few in the whole Roman Empire. The goddess of the lawful revenge Nemesis is depicted with signs of the goddess of the hunt Diana, which makes this portrayal even more special. We don’t know why she was chosen to be depicted with the three main deities of the Roman mythology.”

A statement issued by the head of the preservation office Erich Classen also said the representation of Nemesis-Diana is unusual in the area. “We have little evidence that she was worshiped in the Rhineland during Roman times,” Classen said. The statement also says that the goddess can be recognized by means of a wagon wheel behind her and the short robe she wears.

A MYSTERIOUS WELL

“We cannot exactly tell where the columns stood originally but it’s most likely that they stood in the periphery of the wells that belonged to Roman farms or manors,” said Schubert.

The well containing the column has some other unusual attributes. Excavation manager Martin Gruenewald, from the Titz branch of the preservation office, says the well appears to have been used from the 2nd century until the 5th century A.D.

“Using the well for such a long time is extraordinary,” he said. “The wells discovered so far were normally filled with Jupiter columns as early as the 3rd or 4th centuries. The well itself is revealing. The solid stone frame of the well reveals a high structural and logistical effort.”

This could also provide information about the religious conditions in the Rhineland during the late Roman period. Remains of Jupiter columns were found in many wells on the Roman estates, where they were probably located in courtyards.

With the help of an excavator provided by RWE, the well can be excavated step by step by the LVR office for soil conservation in the Rhineland. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

 

Lignite mining continues in the background while the archaeological team works on the well. In the run-up to the work, the large bucket-wheel excavator had carefully removed the embankment to expose the well. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

 

The fragments of the Jupiter column are transported away from the site with heavy equipment so that they can later be cleaned and examined. (Marcel Zanjani/LVR-Amt fur Bodendenkmalpflege im Rheinland/Newsflash)

“During the period of Christianization, these pillars of the gods were considered pagan and were perhaps deliberately thrown into the wells. The fact that in the case of Kerpen this only happened in the 5th century shows the worship of the Roman deities still taking place in the country at that time, after churches had long since been built in Cologne and elsewhere,” said Gruenwald. “However, it cannot be ruled out that the column was destroyed during an incursion by Germanic tribes and ended up in the well, because from the 3rd century tribal groups invaded the Roman area to the west of the Rhine.”

“The sandstones [used to make the columns], which weighed several tons, had to be transported several kilometers from the northern [low mountain range of] Eifel to the villa,” said Udo Geilenbruegge, head of the Titz branch of the preservation office. “Only a wealthy landlord could have afforded that.”

It’s unclear exactly how old the recently discovered column is. “It was most likely built at the same time as the well, whose construction indicates the establishment of the associated villa rustica,” said Schubert. “But the column could also have been built later as the well; we can’t be certain about this.

“The well itself gives us more clues regarding the age determination. … The time of the construction … is more uncertain on the basis of the finds, but is probably identical to other wells of the same building technique in the region that date to the 2nd and 3rd century. We have to wait until the dating of the wood findings that we have retrieved from the well [to] be done, but that’ll take some time.”

In about 350 A.D., legislation by the Roman Empire made so-called pagan worship an offence punishable with death, which resulted in temples bearing ancient Roman gods to be destroyed or closed. In 380 A.D., Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, with pagan belief systems and practices gradually destroyed or incorporated into the new religion.

(Edited by Stephen Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.) 



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PHOTOS: These masks are the cat’s meow

PHOTOS: These masks are the cat’s meow

A Mexican designer has started cranking out “anti-Covid-19” masks for cats. Along with serving as a shield to help deter the spread of the illness from cat to cat, Nestor Ortega says his creations are “an accessory  [that] serves to remind us that we are going through a very difficult situation and that we have to protect ourselves.”

Ortega lives in the city of Xalapa in the state of Veracruz, which, as of Aug. 11, had the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 cases (24,443) in Mexico.

“The disease has affected us a lot and the economic resources of the state that should reach the neediest people are slow in coming,” he said.

Beyond its toll on humans, the coronavirus appears to also be infecting such pets as dog and cats—albeit relatively rarely. According to a recent report from the American Medical Veterinary Association, fewer than 20 pets have tested positive for the coronavirus. Meantime, the OIE-World Organization for Animal Health is reporting that laboratory experiments have shown cats can transmit the infection to other cats, but not to humans.

How did Ortega come up with the idea for the cat-shield? “My sister-in-law asked me for a mask as an accessory for her cat,” said the 42-year-old Ortega, a 15-year-veteran in the graphic design/advertising field. “So I started designing different models in two sizes, for big cats and small cats.”

The face shield on a cat. (Nestor Ortega Castillo/Newsflash)

 

The face shield on a cat. (Nestor Ortega Castillo/Newsflash)

 

The face shield on a cat. (Nestor Ortega Castillo/Newsflash)

 

The face shields laid out. (Nestor Ortega Castillo/Newsflash)

The masks, which take Ortega about 40 minutes each to make, are actually clear plastic shields that cover cats’ full faces. Some are clear and others bear cut-out images from “Star Wars,” “Hello Kitty,” “Felix the Cat” and other cat-related creations. He’s selling them between $2-$2.50 (45-55 pesos).

Creating such shields came naturally to Ortega, a cat lover whose family is currently raising three kittens. “They are not only pets, they are part of my family.”

(Edited by Matt Hall and Stephen Gugliociello)



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Mysterious, ancient bronze chariot found buried with horse skeletons

Mysterious, ancient bronze chariot found buried with horse skeletons

The partial renovation of a bronze chariot likely used by royalty in China three millennia ago has been unveiled to the public.

News of the three-year restoration was announced by the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in the central Chinese city of  Xi’an, which said that the ancient chariot was from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC).

The chariot was first unearthed in 2014 at the Zhouyuan site in Shaanxi province after being buried seemingly together with the four horses that would have pulled it. Based on the remnants, scientist say the chariot would have been 10.2 feet (3.13 metres) long, 8.8 feet (2.7 meters) wide, and 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) high.  Also using the remnants, scientists created renderings of what the chariot would probably have looked like in its heyday.

A rendering of the bronze chariot. (Real Press/Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology)

 

A rendering of the bronze chariot. (Real Press/Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology)

The weight of the earth that had accumulated over the centuries on top of the ancient vehicle had crushed it into thousands of pieces, necessitating the restoration. The fragments included 400 bronze fittings, many of which are inlaid with turquoise, while the outer edges of the wheels were also made of bronze.

A rendering of the bronze chariot. (Real Press/Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology)

 

A rendering of the bronze chariot. (Real Press/Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology)

Scientists say civil war and other turmoil dominated the area during the time the chariot was in use. But, because the restored vehicle showed few signs of wear-and-tear, scientists say it was likely a ceremonial chariot, rather than a fighting one. In addition, they say it was probably owned by a king, who had the chariot and horses buried with him when he died. The skeletal remains of the horses were at the front of the chariot remains.

Institute spokesperson Wang Zhankui said the restoration of the chariot “has provided invaluable research on some of the customs and the hierarchy of the late Western Zhou Dynasty.” The find’s original site is believed to have been the home of Duke Danfu, an early Zhou clan leader.

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Stephen Thomas Gugliociello)



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