SXSW EDU—An Experience Into Education
This year, I had the opportunity to go to SXSW Edu with some of the X in a Box team, where I was able to share about my experiences with them and learn from many others. For those who may not know (like me before going), SXSW is an annual convention that brings people and companies from various industries like music, film, education, and tech together into one convention. The convention lasts 2-3 weeks and breaks itself up with different panels, group workshops and keynote speakers where you’re able to hear a wide array of experiences. The first part of SXSW is focused on education, and it was for this that we were invited to speak about one of our newest projects: Unreal Futures—a collaboration we're doing with Epic Games.
Meeting the X in a Box Team
After working with them for 2 years, I officially met Elyse Klaidman and Dennis Henderson for the first time. Alongside them, I also met Steve Isaacs of Epic Games who has been working closely with us on Unreal Futures. Being in-person with these amazing individuals and hearing their own experiences firsthand was a unique feeling that no virtual workspace can capture.
As we bounced between all the workshops and speakers, we got to know one another on a much deeper level. I knew about Elyse and Dennis, but I'd never heard the stories of where they came from or how they built themselves to be the creative and educational professionals they are today. This was a great chance to get to see the diverse community present within X in a Box and the strong rapport Dennis and Elyse have with each other, and despite the previously mentioned 2 years, this was where I truly connected with them, and it made my experience at X in Box that much more real.
As I went through the convention, the main thing on my mind was the panel we were presenting about Unreal Futures. For context, Unreal Futures is a series of videos, tutorials, and projects designed to walk creators through Unreal Engine, which is a powerful 3D design engine. Along with these helpful resources, the program also provides access to insight from professionals who use it and opportunities for students to create something of their own. I'd been working on this project for the past couple of months, and SXSW was where we could finally open a dialogue on our long-term goals as a company.
So, how did it go?
The Panel: Unreal Futures
The panel itself wasn’t as intense as I thought. Elyse and Dennis reassured me that if I ever got lost I could fall back on my insights as a student educator/creator and share about the student experience. We talked about our long-term vision of Unreal Futures and how the growing tech industry has a responsibility to contribute towards the future of education. All our programming is career-focused, but the bottom line is about creating a new standard on how to teach and make things accessible to others.
After the panel, there were a ton of people that approached us with questions about how to be involved. Being present in this process made me aware of just how much of an impact we can have in inspiring others and fostering the creation of wonderful things. It was amazing to see so much interest expressed for our space, since I figured that level of excitement would be reserved for tech-based innovations. It was refreshing to see it present for education-centered ideas, too.
My Final Thoughts
A phrase that I kept finding myself saying was “holy sh*t, this is so real”. I said it for the companies I was learning about, for the people who dedicated large portions of their professional careers to education and for the conversations I was having along the way. Last year, I was in a state of constant disillusionment because I felt as if hardly anyone cared about education or its utilization to create a true impact. I've worked in the education and non-profit space since High School with a program called TXT (Teens Exploring Technology), so when I got to USC, I wanted and still want to build educational opportunities, but I ended up hitting roadblocks and resistance from organizations against expanding their community outreach. As someone who knows the impact education has on others, I was astonished at how little these conversations were happening, especially considering that we were in an academic space within student organizations. This realization made me appreciate the work we're doing at X in a Box even more, and coming to SXSW has helped me to gain the confidence to carry that work on to USC. As of right now, I am currently working on creating a community space for colleges and their surrounding neighborhoods to come together and conduct impactful extracurricular programming. I will be building this over the course of my senior year, which I am so excited for! This experience will continue to inspire me and challenge the spaces I participate in.
I personally want to give a big thanks to Elyse, Dennis, Tony, Brit, Steve and all the rest of the X in a Box team for providing a place for me to learn and go to SXSW, and there were many people I met at this convention that I will continue to connect with. Can’t wait until the next SXSW!
About the Author
A community leader and local entrepreneur, Anthony enables change through organizations that focus on educating and cultivating young talent in South Central for students of color.
His ultimate goal is to disrupt the foundations of learning through technology and entrepreneurship.