Participated in ‘Shark Tank’ style presentations
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 24, 2016) — Students from the University of Kentucky College of Education and Fayette County Public Schools’ STEAM Academy participated last month in an Entrepreneurism Challenge organized by UK College of Education associate professor Justin Bathon.
The challenge took high school students through the process of forming a startup business or nonprofit, culminating in a “Shark Tank” style presentation to community judges. The preliminaries included market research and number crunching, as well as workshops on web design and presentation skills.
“It was a mix of us teaching business content and them working to build a new company,” Bathon said. “We provided the framework for them to pitch viable business models on topics they’re passionate about. We took the reins off in terms of how they approached it, but we assessed with an extremely detailed rubric. We gave them a massive, rapid design challenge with fairly high stakes and the kids responded beautifully. Coming up with initial ideas is a lot of fun, but I was particularly proud of how they pushed through the hard work of reaching a viable business model around those ideas vetted in actual customer needs. It was in those areas where they really grew the most.”
Challenge judges ranged from local business owners to nonprofit managers. Several UK professors and staff also assisted in the judging as well as parents of STEAM Academy students. They looked at three main components:
- Students’ idea or concepts
- Business plan, including advertising, products and documentation
- Quality of presentation
One group proposed Ready Tent, a business that would design backpacks for the homeless population, strategically stuffed with tents for protection from the elements. While working on their plan, the students were further moved to action when a man in Lexington died from exposure to freezing temperatures.
“If there’s a way to help, we want to do it,” said junior STEAM student Drew Hamilton. The STEAM Academy, which opened in the fall of 2013, incorporates mastery learning, personalized instruction, internships and dual/college credit opportunities. The mission is to graduate its students college and career ready and geared for success in the 21st century global workforce.
Students take ownership of their learning by engaging in real-world problem-solving projects that interest them in a variety of ways from design challenges like this event to the selection of internship locations.
The UK College of Education and its Next Generation Leadership Academy is helping to create the innovative infrastructure and instructional model. In addition, teachers work with faculty members and other UK personnel who provide training across a range of instructional innovations including project‐based learning, performance assessment, and technology integration. Ultimately, the STEAM Academy serves as an incubator—where pre-service and master teachers gain experience in a digitally heavy, project-based, college-relevant learning environment and as a lab—where UK faculty can research and pilot new innovations.