By Carrie Markel
108 attendees. 22 pitches. 15 mentors. 9 teams formed. 9 startups created.
Hours of perseverance, struggle, and innovation filled Crossroads Academy's new downtown middle school for 54 hours this past weekend in order to accomplish the above numbers. Teachers, students, and entrepreneurs from across Kansas City came together not just to form startups, but to spark innovation in education. They were spurred along by a knowledgeable group of mentors and 1st-3rd place prizes were awarded from an expert panel of judges.
One attendee, Matt Caffey, an marketing and entrepreneurial student at UMKC, said that the weekend "provided an experience that taught me more skills than I have learned in entire semesters of classes. It was fascinating to participate in actively turning a simple idea into a marketable product in just three days."
The hands-on, experiential format of Startup Weekend EDU was full of many challenges, pitfalls, and iterations. But all nine teams persevered to reach Sunday night pitches, a rarity for Startup Weekends where early on many startups taste the most common experience of an entrepreneur: failure. Instead, the teams at SWEDU-KC failed fast, quickly, and forward to achieve the below results:
MYLearningKC (1st Place)
MYLearning teaches the first character set of Hirajana, the basis of Japanese, in a game. Mastery is achieved in just 10 levels.
Notes: The ambition of this team was mind-boggling – to put a language’s characters into ten levels, let alone guarantee mastery, seems hard enough. When you find out that Japanese has over 20,000 characters and that they want to eventually build game that include other languages, the ramifications for foreign language education seem endless.
Pennez (2nd Place)
Pennez is a digital platform that focuses on improving urban core literacy through graphic novels that are culturally-relevant, differentiated, and adaptive to students’ learning.
Notes: This team came prepared with research, anecdotal evidence, and a mission to make reading culturally-relevant to minority populations. They’re upfront, unapologetic, and more than necessary in every school in Kansas City.
STUCCO (3rd Place)
STUCCO is a platform for schools to document behavior incidents and collect data to drive effective interventions and student support.
Notes: Too often, schools' behavior management systems focus on negative consequences or unintentionally reinforce negative behavior. STUCCO has the potential to change that using the same practices in data-driven instruction teachers are already using for academics to build data-driven, positive behavior support.
UNIverse is a platform to connect students to mentors to gain specific academic and career advice so that students can develop skills in areas related to their personal interests.
Notes: “What famous person would you love to have dinner with?” or so goes a classic ice-breaker question. UNIverse is attempting to take this question literally: what do you, as a student, want to know and how can the platform connect you with a mentor to help get you there? Imagine meeting the Socrates of the 21st century, all for a lower price than college tuition.
Super Coders Club
Super Coders Club is a program that brings computer science and tech education directly to schools.
Notes: There are plenty of coding programs out there, so why don’t all of our students know how to code? Super Coders Club is looking at finding a niche to answer this question and provide schools this valuable piece of 21st century learning for free while also bringing both the hardware and volunteers to after school programs.
Partners in PD
Partners in PD empowers 21st century, teacher learning through adaptive, innovative tech tools for professional development.
Notes: Partners in PD looks to address the bane of every teacher’s experience with professional development by making content relevant and accessible beyond the school building. An exciting piece to this startup is the team’s ideas on how to plug in to teacher training programs to prepare educators long before they even get to the classroom.
Converge: Mobile Design Challenge
Converge is a mobile student-driven, problem-solving experience that closes the divide between students in the urban core and suburbs of Kansas City through design challenges.
Notes: This team took a previous concept from an annual event and turned the design challenge conference into a mobile space that travels directly to schools. The design challenges focus on socially and racially-neutral challenges so that the students' focus is on collaboration and creativity.
Learning Ground is a game that makes up remedial skills in math, geography, history, and communication arts.
Notes: Any technology that engages students, is adaptive, and remediates necessary skills is a slam dunk. The team is also exploring the parent-sided market rather than selling directly to schools – an interesting twist that they’re looking to validate.
Mobile Make is a mobile maker space that improves STEAM education by providing lesson plans and real-world applications to skills necessary for the 21st century.
Notes: There’s plenty of hype around maker spaces right now, but the mobile aspect of this startup, plus the focus on building lesson plans and curriculum rather than just providing raw materials could make any teacher AND student excited to see this truck pull up to their school.
If you would like to contact any of the teams, please email Carrie at firstname.lastname@example.org