Sandpoint High School receives grant for new esports gaming lab By Christian Weaner
For those who do not already know, Sandpoint High School has a flourishing computer science program and competitive esports team led by teacher and SHS graduate Dalton Hawkins. And it just got better.
In the spring of 2022, Hawkins applied for a grant through Ting Internet with the permission of David Miles II, the principal of Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High School and founder of Video Game Club—Sandpoint’s original gaming club that Hawkins himself participated in as a student.
“[Hawkins] found the grant, and he just asked me if he could apply for this grant to help grow his program,” Miles said. “So, simply, I just said ‘yes’ to his asking to apply for the grant, and he applied for it and received it.”
Now, with the installation of roughly $30,000 worth of equipment—11 desktop computers, mice, keyboards and gaming chairs—Hawkins will not only by able to lead Sandpoint Esports to continued growth, but he will also have the opportunity to teach computer programming to 125 students each year—a statistic that is “unheard of” in the state of Idaho.
Hawkins graduated from Sandpoint High School in 2009 before pursuing a Bachelor of Education from the University of Idaho. After spending a year teaching in Alaska, he returned to Sandpoint to become a math and computer science teacher in 2017. That same year, he took over as the advisor of Video Game Club, shifting the club to an esports focus, based on the suggestions of his students at the time.
One of the biggest advantages of esports, according to Hawkins, is that all the competitions are online. The ability to compete remotely is huge, especially in the Idaho panhandle, where varsity sports teams travel an hour or more for the majority of their away games.
“We get to compete against some of the best schools in the nation, and we get to compete against some of the worst schools in the nation, and we all get that communal experience,” Hawkins said. “We are not restricted to just the schools in our area.”
Hawkins noted that the esports team provides a safe community for students from all different backgrounds, including those who do not fit into the traditional athletic or academic activities at SHS.
“I get a wide variety of kids,” Hawkins said. “And I think that is because video games are pretty universal.”
Thanks to the new computer equipment, both the esports team and the computer science classes at SHS will benefit.
“Before we had been using laptops, and it is just an absolute mess,” Hawkins said. “I call it spaghetti. There are just wires everywhere.”
Now, with desktop computers tricked out with all the bells and whistles, SHS students will have cutting-edge technology at their fingertips every day, whether they are learning programming or competing in esports competition.
“I think the growth [of esports and computer programming] is going to come, and it’s going to be there, and we are going to be three steps ahead of it when it shows up here,” Miles said.
Sandpoint Esports is open for any high school student in the Lake Pend Oreille School District to join. To learn more about the group, contact Dalton Hawkins at email@example.com.