Kansas City Education Innovators Go From Pitch To Prototype In One Weekend | KCUR

Kansas City Education Innovators Go From Pitch To Prototype In One Weekend

Apr 30, 2016

A child care co-op. An eHarmony for high school mentors. An avatar that shows kids how the food they eat affects them.

On Friday, all of these were just ideas. By Sunday night, they’ll be reality.

Entrepreneurs from all over the region gathered this weekend to re-imagine the future of education by developing tools, apps, and educational resources — all in 54 hours.

At Startup Weekend EDU, Kansas City’s annual educational startup competition, innovators go from pitch to prototype over the course of three days, working with coaches and teams they’ve formed over the weekend.

The event is hosted by local education incubator The Lean Lab and New Orleans’ 4.0 Schools.

On Friday, individuals gave 60-second elevator pitches to the entire group on their idea to innovate the classroom. Afterwards, the entire group voted on their favorite ideas and formed teams.

Nadja Cajic came to Kansas City from St. Louis. Her team is creating an app where kids can virtually feed what they had for lunch at school to an avatar, to see the effects of their choices.

“So essentially, they’ll get to know, like, you are what you eat, or at least ‘My avatar is what I eat’ and maybe they’ll be motivated to eat better because that way their avatar would be healthier,” Cajic says.

Her team, like most at the competition, didn't know each other when they arrived at Think Big Partners in downtown Kansas City, Missouri for the weekend.

Kelli Lycke brought some teammates with her. She teaches in Gladstone, Mo., and brought along two of her students to help launch a program that will teach city kids about agriculture, and help them make use of small spaces for urban farming.

A few area students were also at the competition.

They joined a group of professional coaches to advise teams on whether their product would have an interested audience.

Leslie Scott is a Digital Inclusion fellow at the Full Employment Council in Kansas City. She and her team are developing a platform that would match students to mentors based on learning styles, personality traits and interests. She likens it to eHarmony for mentors.

Scott was meeting with Eva, one of the high-school students advising teams on Saturday morning.

“She’s coaching us today on what it would be like to use a tool like this to find a mentor,” Scott says.

Not all groups are targeting students.

Lena Moore is the leader of one of the weekend’s biggest teams. They’re developing a child care co-op for families that can’t afford child care. They imagine their final product to be a website, paired with an app, where families will be matched based on a variety of factors so that they can exchange babysitting time and still work the hours they need to support a family.

With only 54 hours to go from idea to finished product, the teams are working quickly.

“It’s incredibly fast and it’s really fun,” Moore says.

The winning teams, which will have the opportunity to work with entrepreneurship mentors, will be announced Sunday evening.