Superat to TechnoRat
The fastest growing co-curricular group at Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School are known as the TechnoRats.
Originally formed as a collaboration between the Head of Extension and Intervention and the Manager of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), TechnoRats began as a group of like-minded students who wanted to explore emerging technologies through participation in competitions such as the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge, a mid-level robotics competition designed for students. The group’s activities now stretch across multiple platforms, ranging from online gaming challenges, technological builds of arcade machines, coding platforms to build console-style games, immersive reality games, and Minecraft builds, to empower members to learn new and innovative ways to engage with technology.
The enthusiasm for TechnoRats stems from an explosion of opportunities for students with an interest in E-sports, gaming, artificial intelligence (AI) and technological innovation. Pricewaterhouse Coopers International predicts that the international gaming industry could be worth as much as US $321 billion by 2026, with social and casual gaming the largest growth area. During the pandemic, many people used multiplayer online games to maintain social and recreational contact with friends and build networks of like-minded people. In tertiary education, Griffith University offers a Bachelor of Games Design, and Queensland University of Technology offers a Diploma in E-sports, providing a pathway to higher degrees in IT, Business, Creative Industries, and Games and Communications Technologies. QUT has also introduced their High School E-sports League, where students are mentored by E-sports professionals and can participate in competition as players, or in industry roles such as officiating, streaming and casting.
These opportunities are all presented to Ipswich Girls’ Grammar students through TechnoRats. The co-curricular group is open to all students, regardless of skill level or experience. The group’s first competitive activity for 2023 was the Federation of United Schools E-sports (FUSE) Cup Ipswich Division. Through the year our School will host multiple schools as students compete across four different E-sports: Just Dance, Mario Kart, Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers. The FUSE Cup organisation describes itself as “an international network of schools connected in providing young students with an opportunity to participate in a safe, supportive and structured national E-sports competition while developing positive gaming behaviours and digital wellbeing.” Since our success in the first competition of the year, with Arielle Poulsen progressing to the State Finals, our students have also participated in the Global Round of the World Scholar’s Cup, as well as in the Girl Gamer competition, specifically designed to encourage female participation in E-sports.
Year 11 TechnoRat captain, Gabriella Poulsen tells us of her experience with the group, “It is so much fun, the students are so friendly, and it improves team building and communication skills through gaming, as well as being a fun commitment because you have the opportunity to go to other schools to compete and make new friends, and there is also of course the prizes you can win.”
Gabriella’s participation in QUT’s High School League season has resulted in a marked improvement in her skills and knowledge, which she is now using to coach the Year 7 and 8 team. She is also considering a career in Game Design, professional E-sports, or streaming as a hobby.
The positive effects reported by Gabriella and her TechnoRats peers, are corroborated by independent research conducted by Digital Australia in conjunction with Bond University, released in 2022. The DA22 report surveyed 1,200 households and reports that “what we learned through this process is that Australians have been connected by games, that they have connected to games, with games, through the pandemic, in their families, for personal benefit, to connect to player culture, and connect to the growing value of our digital economy.” Gaming is no longer a solitary activity, as it may once have been, but a social activity that connects people across cyberspace.
Head of Extension and Intervention, Ms Louise Grosvenor, is one of the driving forces behind TechnoRats and the Den concept, along with IT Director, Mr Adam Morris. The Gaming Den at Ipswich Girls’ Grammar is a drop-in space where students can go during lunchtimes and after school to connect with friends through game play. Ms Grosvenor values the welcoming space created by the Den, recognising that it caters for a diverse group of students, including those with neurodiversity. Ms Grosvenor’s instinct that some students with neurodiversities, such as ASD, can enjoy ways to connect through online games, E-sports and other forums is corroborated in the tech industry, where the Harvard Business Review (May-June 2017) has reported on major tech companies recognising that hiring neurodiverse employees can perfectly suit certain roles and be a competitive advantage. In the Den space, students from the most outgoing to the most self-contained find games and activities that match their talents and passions.
TechnoRats is not just a competitive group. It’s a community of like-minded students who share a passion for gaming and technology. The Arcade Machine Project is another initiative of the group, with students preparing to build a custom-made machine that showcases their coding skills. The game will feature and follow the adventures of ‘Super Rat’, our School mascot. The popularity of the group means we are now looking for a larger space to house TechnoRat’s activities, and to give them space to create a true Den for students to socialise and develop their tech skills. When asked what the best part of TechnoRats is, Gabriella explains, “Definitely the community. It was the best feeling ever finding like-minded people who also liked gaming and being able to come to TechnoRats to game as a break from school and hang out with my friends.”
The TechnoRats group is committed to pushing the boundaries of technology, engaging young minds, and inspiring a generation of innovators. The future looks bright with further exciting competitions, games and technology builds planned for the months ahead.
—Mrs Lynda Wall