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In Conn., Entrepreneurship Program Plugs into STEM

Monday, May 24, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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BY MADELINE PATTON,Published May 21, 2010

A video game that teaches about air pollution, an online prom dress resale store and a business that sells bat houses are among the environment-themed projects that recently competed for venture capital at the Connecticut Student Innovation Expoin Hartford, Conn.

The souped-up science fair–where detailed business plans, multi-page Web sites, humorous videos and slick marketing pitches take the place of poster boards–wrapped up yearlong, highly interactive courses that 750 students took at 35 high schools in either e-commerce, biology, digital media, or information technology research and design.

The Center for 21st Century Skills used an Advanced Technological Education(ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation to create curricula that make systemic changes in high school science instruction. In tandem with this ambitious goal, the curricula seek to put students on technical career paths and bridge the significant achievement gaps between the state's urban and suburban youth.

The center is part of Education Connectionand has worked closely with the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturingon the ATE grant for Connecticut Pathways to Innovation (CPI) project. Theregional center connects CPI to major employers and community colleges in the state. Business representatives and community college faculty members serve as curricula advisors, mentors to the students and faculty, and judges at the expo.

While only one team wins money toconvert its project into a real business, the product-driven work culminating in the Expo makes lessons about science, math, technology and business dynamic to students who might otherwise drift through high school, according to the students, high school teachers and community college faculty involved in CPI.

"Their program is fantastic for opening these students’ awareness of entrepreneurship in high school,” said Theresa Janeczek, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and business at Manchester Community College.

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