Fearing a lack qualified graduates to fill its ranks in the coming years, computing giant IBM is launching a program that exposes elementary and high school students to the technology underlying their favorite video games in hopes of sparking their interest math and science.
As part of the effort, the company is arming volunteers from within its ranks with a multimedia education package they can use to show students what's under the hood of popular games like World of Warcraft and Doom -- and how that technology can be applied to loftier environments like health care research and space exploration.
"There is a lot of opportunity for students in technical fields, and gaming is opening many new options," says Robin Willner, VP for IBM's Global Community Initiatives program. "We're making that connection in an interactive way."
At a recent open house at IBM's East Fishkill, N.Y., technology development center, students from Bronx and Duchess counties in New York state were given the chance to touch and interact with powerful computers and software that can be used to create first-person shooters or advanced diagnostic systems.
The program is more than just fun and games for IBM. U.S. technology companies say the country is facing a severe shortage of qualified tech workers that will only get worse as baby boomers in the computing industry hit retirement age. IBM sees its video game demonstrations as way to help boost enrollment in rigorous math and science courses.
The Information Technology Association of America, a tech industry lobby group, last year called on Congress to take steps to double the number of annual graduates in those fields from 400,000 to 800,000 over the next 10 years.