"Our high school students will someday enter the workforce where they will be hired to think like entrepreneurs, to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. When learners engage in the challenging process of conceptualizing and defending an idea, they gain those skills.”

~ Kelly Greene, CTE Director and INCubatoredu Teacher

This article was originally posted on Central School District 301 Blog. It appears below in its entirety.

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Central High School students catch the entrepreneurial spirit!  New this year, the INCubatoredu program joined student teams and business leaders as mentors and coaches for a unique and challenging educational experience focused on innovative thinking and collaboration.

 

The Cycle of Experimentation drives learning

The program begins with student teams identifying a problem they can solve in the form of a startup business. They apply the iteration cycle with each new concept. Meaning, the teams state an assumption, conduct tests to validate or pivot based on evidence, and persevere. Students learn to work together, think critically, research, analyze data and the value of feedback from coaches, peers and teacher. During this process, setbacks are inevitable, but according to teacher Kelly Greene, that’s all part of the learning.
“The key to the program is to help kids learn how to fail forward, how to see failure as an opportunity; INCubatoredu provides value beyond business.  Students learn the skills necessary for any career, preparing them for college or the workplace.”
 

Volunteers Bring the Program to Life

To support students through the challenge, INCubatoredu enlists community members and business expert volunteers who coach and mentor teams. This year, more than 40 individuals gave their time and talents to help make the student experience successful.Coach and mentor Brian Andersen shares his expertise in the classroom.
Each team is assigned an adult mentor who offers support throughout the learning process. These volunteers are crucial to the program; they encourage students through the team challenges and join them in celebrating successes. 2019.Central301.blog.volunteer2Coaches, on the other hand, are experts in their field. They share their knowledge, add relevance to learning, and offer constructive criticism to teams.
 

From Idea to Prototype

Halfway through the year-long class, teams conceptualize a minimum viable product (MVP) and present to the INC Board of Directors. Students must show, through a demonstration of financial and competitive research, that their idea has traction to secure funding for a prototype. Once this initial funding is secured, teams experiment with their product, evaluate its potential market success, complete a financial model, and defend their numbers. They market their idea to secure pre-orders and present their final pitch in the classroom  to compete in the culminating Pitch Night.
 

Innovative Thinking Fair and Pitch Night

In May, CHS hosted an Innovative Thinking Fair and Pitch Night where students exhibited the products of their hard work in the Mobilemakeredu and INCubatoredu programs. At the Fair, community members perused team booths and students networked with attendees. 2019.Central301.pitch.blog (2)Students from MobileMakersedu, a program wherein learners develop apps for Apple devices, demonstrated their apps and INCubatoredu teams showcased their startup business ideas. At Pitch Night, four INCubatoredu teams delivered their product pitch to a group of potential investors in competition for startup funding. Mirroring the popular TV show Shark Tank, the exciting student-led event was emceed by student McCallan Butler and featured program testimonials from students Luke Tosello and Noah Karottu.
“This event contained so much energy! Both community members and students enjoyed the experience and it showed,” said Greene.
 
 

Learning for Life

The INCubatoredu program empowers students to think critically, embrace constructive criticism and learn from failure. Though not all students’ product ideas will be funded and marketed, the real-world experience is invaluable.
 
“Not every student in the program will become an entrepreneur, but this program is about more than that,” said Greene. “Our high school students will someday enter the workforce where they will be hired to think like entrepreneurs, to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. When learners engage in the challenging process of conceptualizing and defending an idea, they gain those skills.”
 
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CHS will offer the INCubatoredu class again during the 2019-20 school year. Any student who has completed the prerequisite Introduction to Business and Technology course is invited to enroll. Program coordinator Kelly Greene seeks mentors and coaches for the new school year. Contact her at kelly.greene@central301.net.