Entrepreneurship Academy for Middle Schoolers – SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Author

Terri Willingham
Terri Willingham
Fablab manager
I’m Executive Director of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, a Tampa based nonprofit dedicated to supporting academic achievement, economic development and the spirit of innovation through inspiring programs and active learning projects. I am a writer by trade, the… Read More

Summary

The Entrepreneurship Academy will teach students how to solve a problem and make money while doing it. There is a business idea inside all of us waiting to be uncovered, and this program will help students learn how to go from idea conception to business modeling, canvasing, prototyping and pitching their product or service in front of a live audience. This program utilizes Solidworks Apps for Kids Classroom, but any type of 3D design process for youth can be employed.

 

Entrepreneurs are creative, resourceful, and resilient; this month-long course will show students first-hand how the skills learned through entrepreneurship can be applied to their everyday life and work. Join us, and bring that business out to light! Academy graduates will also get to pitch their final product or service before professionals in the community,  where not only friends and family can learn about what they developed, but local business leaders and potential investors can, too.

What You'll Need

12-15 students

Computer for every three students

Cardboard

Paper

Tape

Scissors

3D printer

Solidworks Apps for Kids

Hand tools

Access to a variety of other craft/textile materials if needed

The Instructions

Get Acquainted

Students will take 30-45 minutes to get to know each other, not just by name and interests but also by challenge, to set the stage for real world problem solving.

Students should be randomly assigned to groups of three where, among the standard ice breaking questions, they’ll have to ask each other about at least once challenge each faces.

 

They need to note the challenges and as a group, decide which one they find the most common among them.

 

In about 30 minutes, bring all the students back together and have each group of three share the challenge they agreed was the most problematic, or in need of solving.

Understanding Problems

With four or five problems to choose from, from the Get Acquainted experience, students can now evaluate what constitutes an actual problem as opposed to, for instance, an inconvenience or a minor annoyance. There's a fine line there, since some inconveniences, like not being able to reach something, can also be a real problem if someone has a physical challenge - so common sense needs to be applied to this part of the lesson.

Students should try to work down to one main problem from the selection before them and to share back some potential solutions in a brainstorming or active ideating session (with students perhaps tossing a small ball back and forth as they discuss potential solutions – or some similar active thinking session) that lasts no more than about 30 minutes.

 

The potential solutions should be written down on a white board or paper.

 

Homework: Talk to families, friends, teachers and others about everyday challenges or problems they encounter and be prepared to share when they come back to class.

Identifying a Community Problem

On a separate meeting day, students can start to explore community problems or challenges encountered in their neighborhoods or towns.

Students can work together or broken into small teams of 3 again. to explore:

*Local news stories

*Stories and experiences from families and teachers

*Community assessments (if students can go out into the community to do surveys or talk to people – a library is a good place for this type of assessment)

Then, as before, have students work together to narrow down the problem they want to work on together as a team to solve.

Develop a Business Model

Once students know what problem they want to solve, they need to design a business plan around the work they want to do.

The business plan is a simplified business canvas that identifies:

*What problem is being addressed

*Who the customer is

*Budget they have to work with (real or mock)

*Potential associated costs of solving the problem (student hours, materials, etc)

*Timeline for their product development process

*Potential income/investors

Prototype

Now that the student entrepreneurship team has their problem identified, and a business plan for addressing the solution, they can get to work on designing the solution within the budget and timeline they have for the project.

The prototyping process can take a couple of lesson days to get through, and shouldn’t be rushed. Students should be allowed to explore a variety of design ideas and use cardboard, paper, and 2D and 3D modeling software to explore product solutions, and can look online for service type solutions, to confirm what’s already being done in the field, and how their solution is different, an important part of the design process for either a product or a service.

Test

After agreeing on one or two solution prototypes, students should test their solution, physically and with feedback from others.

The testing process should be documented, as students either apply their solution to the selected problem themselves, or have other test it, which is a more powerful testing method. Ideally, several people outside the student group should test the prototype(s) to identify any shortcomings, or highlight anything special that stands out about the solution.

Finalize/Refine Prototype

After taking user feedback into consideration, students should refine their final prototype.

This is the time to make the final prototype as clean as possible, utilizing 3D printing, good design principles, and user feedback. If time allows, users should have an opportunity to try then finalize prototype design and provide feedback on whether it addressed any shortcomings they had found earlier.

 

 

Tell their Story

After students have finalized their prototype, they need to tell the story of their product , essentially the "pitch" that describes their product and why others might want to use it.

The product story needs to :

  • Have a linear narrative from problem to solution
  • Include images or video of the product being used or gathering user feedback
  • Describe the solution in detail and
  • The value to the customer

The Pitch

After pulling their story together, students need to "pitch" it before others - ideally before a group of adult evaluators who can provide honest but instructive feedback on the student product.

Students should develop their pitch in collaboration with adult mentors (Toastmasters is ideal). amd decide if they all want to be part of the pitch, or if they feel one or two of their team have exemplary speaking skills and should represent the team. Either way, all team members should have a hand in the final Pitch exercise.

 

The Pitch should include:

  • Introduction of/by all team members
  • Introduction of the identified problem
  • How the solution was identified or decided upon
  • Overall business plan – mission, goals, client, budget
  • Demonstration or display of the solution/product.

 

Feedbacl

Students and those they pitched to should have opportunities to share feedback about their experience.

Ask students what they learned that they didn’t know before, what they might have done differently and how they might approach problems now as opposed to how they approached them before the program.

Standards

  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Programming.1): I understand the basic structure of a simple program and can modify values, variables, or other parameters to alter its output, function, or behavior.
  • (Fab-Electronics.1): I can follow instructions to build a simple electrical circuit using conductive material, basic components, and power.
  • (Fab-Modeling.1): I can arrange and manipulate simple geometric elements, 2D shapes, and 3D solids using a variety of technologies.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.