MICDS Teacher and Student Team Up to Take First Place at Startup Weekend EDU

MICDS 10th grader Bob Sforza ’17 and Upper School English Teacher Adam Wilson were members of STEMHubSTL, a five-person team that won first place in Startup Weekend EDU in St. Louis on March 8. Additional team members included Valerie Bayes, Monsanto K12 Education Outreach; Vikas Nahar: software consultant and entrepreneur; and Cathy Kuang, Washington University business student and designer.

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) provided an opportunity for a diverse population of educators, students, parents, designers, developers, innovators, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to develop their ideas for improving education in the St. Louis region. The stated purpose of the weekend was to “give those invested in education an opportunity to go beyond talking to DOING . . . By expanding who participates in education conversations we can take steps toward change.” (http://www.up.co/communities/usa/st-louis/startup-weekend/4854)

“I have always been a firm believer in the power of authentic assessment,” said Adam Wilson. “Startup Weekend is as real as it gets. The lean startup is not going anywhere; it is the business model for the 21st Century.”

Teams began by presenting their idea to a panel of judges for approval to continue in the competition. After securing approval to develop their idea, selected teams had just 48 hours to create a business plan, develop a website and recruit clients.

During the competition, Bob Sforza dedicated his time and talents to website development. “Through this process, Bob was able to see the importance of the careful thought put into our English Department curriculum,” Mr. Wilson continued. “For example, he was able to see that performing a memorized passage from Hamlet directly prepared him for the challenge of speaking in front of state senators and the mayor’s deputy chief of staff.”

The STEMHubSTL team identified this problem: There is not a clearinghouse for students, parents and teachers to find STEM opportunities. Their solution was STEMHub, a mobile-friendly website that connects students, parents and teachers interested in STEM with companies and organizations that offer programs.

By the conclusion of the weekend, STEMHub signed six clients – Boeing, Washington University, Pfizer, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, Monsanto and Sigma-Aldrich – who will reap community outreach and marketing benefits through their association with the site as well as make connections with potential applicants and customers. “There are a lot of great STEM opportunities in St. Louis area and beyond. Teachers and parents are just not aware of them. STEMHub will be an useful resource,” said Boeing’s Carol Nelson.