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Why the Pittsburgh Penguins are launching a youth tech academy

The NHL team is bringing project-based technical skills to Pittsburgh students with the help of international IT firm CGI.

Pittsburgh Penguins. (Courtesy photo)
Update: The application deadline has been extended to Feb. 8. (2/4/21, 11:55 a.m.)
Pittsburgh students interested in sports and tech will have a new chance to try their hand at problem solving this spring.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced a new partnership with international IT consulting firm CGI to launch the Pittsburgh Penguins Tech Academy Powered by CGI for local high school students. Open to 10th and 11th graders in regional counties — Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland — the one-day academy will give students a chance to work in teams on projects around the intersection of sports and business technology.

The academy will feature learning around application development, business intelligence, data analytics, digital marketing, event presentation and production, IT, management consulting, and sport science, a spokesperson for the team said.

The daylong launch will take place in person at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday, Mar. 9, and is free for participating students. There will also be a welcome event for all students on Monday, Feb. 28. Applications, which are also free, are open until Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 12 p.m. and require answers to questions on why students are interested in technology and what they hope to gain from the academy. Students can apply as individuals or teams of up to four, and a total of 25 applications (or up to 100 students) will be accepted into the program.

Following the first day of the program, student groups will spend two weeks working together on their respective projects, before sharing the proposal with program runners. The team with the best proposal will be named the CGI Pittsburgh Junior Technologists of the Year, along with individual and school prizes, and a chance to present the winning proposal to tech pros at the Pittsburgh Penguins Sports and Technology Conference Powered by CGI.

So, why mix sports with tech?

“The Pittsburgh Penguins believe in creating opportunities to positively impact the community,” the National Hockey League team’s spokesperson wrote in an email to Technical.ly. “Due to the increasing demand for STEM-related careers in the Pittsburgh region, the Penguins were looking for a community partner who would help us address this challenge.”

The purpose of the collaboration, the rep emphasized, is to give students an immersive experience in a sector of tech that will likely hold future opportunities in Pittsburgh.

The new academy isn’t the first tech initiative to come from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Last year, the team announced a collaboration with Bosch-owned startup Azena to implement security camera applications in heat mapping, queue detection and more to improve fan experience. The team’s continued partnership with a variety of tech initiatives is one example of how Pittsburgh — a quintessential sports town — is growing its tech industry to the point that it becomes integrated into new, previously non-technical parts of the local economy.

As for this new focus on both youth and tech from the Penguins, the company rep said that for both the team and CGI, “technology and community are integral aspects of the brand DNA.”

“This program offers the Penguins and CGI an opportunity to work directly with those who will have a hand in shaping our region’s future,” they wrote. “This collaboration offers a unique opportunity for local high school students to get a real-world start to a possible long-term career.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: CGI

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