Southern Lab unveils sparkling new esports and media facility

The decked-out center for 'inclusive competition' will host gamers and those with STEM interests.
By: | February 9, 2021
Photos courtesy of Southern Lab School

The Southern University Lab School in Baton Rouge, La., unveiled a dynamic new esports and media center on its campus during a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, the culmination of an amazing transformation of the space and the program over the past year.

Christopher Turner, an artist and educator at the small preparatory school that is housed on the campus of Southern University, helped create the vision for the new esports and media lab, largely during the COVID-19 pandemic. He not only helped procure the gear through industry connections and partnerships, but also has been coaching up his rising gamers, including national NBA2K champion Troy Murphy.

Turner says the opening of the lab, which is a first in the state of Louisiana, was a moment of great pride for the school and its students.

“We have been the leaders in the state in esports education. We are providing inclusive competition, where skill is the great equalizer,” he said. “The lab is not just for our competitive esports teams. The space will offer all students the best in science, technology, entertainment, math, and esports education.”

Compared to the old lab, which featured just a couple of consoles, this one is a show-stopper. Among the features are: Bloody Hands Light Strike Gaming Keyboards, RIG Gaming Headsets, Vertagear gaming chairs, Alienware Aurora R11, Zowie monitors, new mice and mouse pads, 65-inch Smart TVs, Playstation 4’s, Nintendo Switches. There is also an observation and streaming room.

Not bad for a program that got its start in the summer of 2019.

More from DA: How Southern Lab got gaming off the ground

An Epic new gig for Isaacs

Steve Isaacs, one of the very first esports leaders in the country on the middle school level and an educator for more than 25 years, has moved into a new role as Education Program Manager at Epic Games.

Isaacs, a huge proponent of game-based learning and game design and Minecraft, taught video game design and development and digital storytelling in Basking Ridge, NJ, before the shift to Epic. He will be helping educators utilize interactive 3D tools such as Unreal Engine, Twinmotion and Fortnite Creative.

Isaacs and fellow educator Chris Aviles, Jesse Lubinsky and Christine Lion-Bailey recently co-authored a comprehensive book called The Esports Education Playbook: Empowering Every Learner Through Inclusive Gaming, which is available on Amazon in Kindle or paperback. Laylah Bulman, Director of Strategic Partnerships at NASEF and founder of the Florida Scholastic Esports League calls it “the best guide to scholastic esports ever written.”

Virtual event coming in Florida

The esports programs at Full Sail University and the University of Central Florida are helping to host a free virtual symposium that will look at the growth of gaming on campuses and feature a number of college and industry leaders.

The two-day event, scheduled for Feb. 18-19 from 1-5 p.m. and hosted by nonprofit Florida Citrus, will be highlighted by an open networking discussion at the end of each day. Some of the topics will include events and program administration development, health and wellness and post-college careers.

Among the guest speakers the universities have lined up are four standouts from collegiate esports: Chris “Doc” Haskell, the national esports coach of the year from Boise State University; Mark Deppe of the perennial powerhouse University of California, Irvine Esports (UCI Esports); Dana Hustedt, one of the architects of Grand View University’s consistent strong program; and Ashley “AJ” Jones of fast-rising Park University.

The Mountain West Conference’s Carolayne Henry, former UCEA President Victoria Horsley, Tampa Association of Gaming President Marcus Howard, The Yard: HBCU Esports Alliance Commissioner Dr. Marc Williams and the Varsity Esports Foundation’s Bubba Gaeddert will shared their insight on the organizations shaping the college and high school landscape.

In addition, there are a number of top industry voices slated to take part, including:

  • Neil Duffy, Chief Revenue Officer, eFuse
  • Erin Eberhardt, Lead Project Manager, Activision Blizzard
  • Kevin Hoang, Scholastic Program Manager, Twitch
  • Richard Huggan, Managing Director, Hitmarker
  • John Kracum, President, Misfits Gaming
  • Duran Parsi, Director of College Esports, FACEIT
  • Dr. Lindsey Migliore, GamerDoc