Gower College is expert in supporting young people as they move through further education into the working world or onto higher education, with success based on providing first class experiences for young people. This includes excellent teaching, good facilities and great care and support. The range of College programmes available allow students to improve their qualifications and progress to good jobs or to higher education and also to meet new people and do new things – now thanks to gaming machines from Stone Group, those programmes have been extended.
The College has been a customer of Stone Group for many years and during that time we have provided several refreshes of their computers and PCs. However, as Neil Griffiths, IT Lecturer and Curriculum Leader explains, his IT students wanted a very specific PC.
“The PCs we were using were more than capable for everyday teaching using Word and Visual Studio, however, our IT students have really embraced Esports and ideally wanted a higher CPU, bigger hard drive and more advanced graphics cards. We approached Stone to ask if there was anything on the market that could help.”
Stone has been aware of the surge in popularity of Esports for some time. Competitive, organised gaming is a lucrative industry that offers leagues, tournaments and cash prizes but it has also been recognised as a valuable digital learning tool for education which can also be incorporated into course curriculums. As a result of this growing market sector, Stone Group purchased the DinoPC brand enabling us to add high spec gaming machines to our comprehensive portfolio and so making us unique in the sector.
Gower College joined the British Esports Association (BEA) to play in the Overwatch league and quickly put two teams together to enter. However, in the first season they realised that playing with their classmates and using standard PCs was not ideal and they didn’t get very far.
When approached by Gower College and hearing about their future plans for gaming, Stone was happy to become a sponsor partner and supply the college with 16 gaming PCs to showcase our new brand. The PCs were named Dracoraptor after the first skeleton of a theropod dinosaur found in Wales and coincidentally close to the college’s Swansea campus and home to the college’s new Esports team – GCS Owls.
With the new gaming machine at their disposal, the GCS Owls are taking Esports seriously. They were determined to improve in season two and organised a series of trials to pick the best players from across all year groups and his time around the teams managed to reach to the Quarter Finals. The college have also developed rules that gamers must adhere to which includes being respectful when online, attend practice sessions and owning an Overwatch licence. They also have their own logo which is proudly displayed on merchandise such as T-shirts and on their growing social media presence and a new website, as well as a range of training gear kindly provided by Western Digital,
“The Dracoraptor has made a huge difference to our students – not just in the gaming league but also in their learning,” said Neil. “Essentially these top of the range gaming machines use the latest processors, incredible graphics and a huge amount of RAM and capacity. As well as running games that allow the GCS Owls to compete more effectively, they also allow students across our IT and multi-media courses to access world leading software. The students also love how the machines look – they really are the business with their coloured lights and state of the art kit – and it all helps the gaming psychology.”
The Dracoraptor is powered by the world leading AMD Ryzen 3000 Series processor, which boasts higher speed, wider bandwidth and more memory for improved gameplay, crisper visuals and richer textures.
Other partners in the development of the project include Western Digital, who provided WD Blue HDDs to boost the PC capacity to 1TB SATA 6Gbps, plus, with legendary reliability, WD Blue drives are also designed, tested and built to last, and ships with a 2-year limited warranty. Find out more about their range of products here.
Samsung , who also worked on the project with the 970 EVO Plus which reaches 53% faster sequential read/write speeds and the latest V-NAND which bring greater NANAD performance and higher power efficiency, optimised firmware and Intelligent TuroboWrite boost.
The Dracoraptor always looks the part too, thanks to CORSAIR’s iCUE 465X RGB mid-tower smart case to provide brilliant software controlled lighting.
Neil said that while the new PCs have benefited the gaming students, they have also resulted in additional benefits they had not considered previously.
The College has developed its own twitch stream (like watching live TV for gaming). Developing this stream and its graphics has become a project for students, the students have also been involved in setting up their own YouTube studio including camera, mics and green screen, and even if they are not interested in gaming, they can develop their design, graphics, commentating, lighting skills or broadcast skills. The students have also designed the GCS Owls logo and having the sponsors’ names (Stone and DinoPC) on their kit makes them feel even more professional.
“Having set up these new facilities for the gamers, we found that they were also ideal for virtual teaching during the coronavirus lockdown,” said Neil. “Students use a chat app called Discord which was initially developed to bring the gaming community together (similar to Microsoft Teams). However, we discovered that thanks to our GCS Owls twitch link we could also use it to live stream lectures. It’s a great app that students are familiar with but the college would probably never have even been aware of it if we had not joined the Esports community.”
Neil also believes that joining the league has encouraged students to mix much more. He said: “The gaming teams are based on skill levels and that means students work with people outside their friendship group and year groups and the college feels like a more cohesive community.”
In addition, the college has also decided to add Gaming to its course list, adding BTEC level 3 in Esports – making it a leader in further education and offering its students access to a wide range of potential careers – including programming, video, creative careers and higher IT related courses. There has also been an improvement in attendance, student interaction has improved and recruitment has increased. Behaviour has improved – students don’t want complaints that get them kicked off the team and staff have noticed student confidence levels grow across the board.
As for the GCS Owls, they now have a gaming presence in British Esports Association’s Overwatch, Rocket League and League of Legends. Once a week a team of 4 – 6 players play other schools and colleges across the country and to date, four students have won awards in the world championships achieving Gold, Silver and Bronze categories. They really are out to conquer the world of Esports.
Neil concludes: “We would encourage other educational establishments to get involved with Esports due to the numerous educational, technical and community advantages it brings. Stone Group’s involvement with DinoPC means that the education sector can now take advantage of high spec machines that come with the backing and expertise that we have come to expect from Stone.”
The gaming PCs can be purchased outright or are available using a leasing structure and both are available under the Stone 3-year warranty. A Windows package comes as standard with the gaming element being designed as a bespoke package.
We have worked with Stone for many years and so were delighted to learn they now offer the same high standards in gaming PCs. A great combination.
The Stone team is always easy to contact and should we ever have a problem, we know they will come out to us without fuss.
Students love the performance of the gaming PCs which has definitely helped them make inroads into the Esports leagues – they also look pretty good too.
Neil Griffiths, IT Lecturer and Curriculum Leader