Category Archives: Public Schools

INQUIRY AND INNOVATION

by John Jonelis

What happens when you invite the community into your high school and send your high school students into the community?

Amazing things! You create a THIRD SPACE in people’s lives.

[Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer at IMSA.]

Britta – “You have your home and you have your work and you have third spaces in your life where you feel comfortable and find a community. Robert Putnam believed in third spaces. He has a book called Bowling Alone 1. It used to be that bowling leagues were that third space. People at the bar. Cheers. We want IN2 to be that third space in people’s lives.”

“Look at the ceiling. Look at the lights. Do you see the pattern?

IN2 – Symbolism in Architecture

It’s that intersection of outside and inside. Community coming together to make this a real learning laboratory experience. We want to come in and work on real-world problems and opportunities.

“People can bring problems and opportunities to us and say, let’s figure out how we can work together. Like the State of Illinois with the hackathon we just did—finding solutions to childhood lead poisoning.

“Think about all the things kids are doing that are not helping. Here’s a great place. I hope IN2 can be a third space in people’s lives.”

[The grandness of the idea and the imaginative scope hit home, but ask Britta how IN2 will implement it.]

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Innovation

“We can’t stand still. Education—if it’s doing the same thing over and over and over—is not moving ahead—it’s falling behind.

“IN2 is the intersection of what we do at IMSA and the community. We’re partnering with Invest Aurora, the Woman’s Business Development Center, the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center—they are all resources to help what we’re doing here grow and scale.

Business Mentor

[Britta anticipates my next question and gets even more specific.]

“We’ve opened up a cohort of LINKubators 2 These are actual startup companies.  We have three working in the space as a pilot.  Our students intern with them and our network can help them grow.  Our MENTORS, our IDEA BARISTAS, our SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS can all help them grow. 

“Next fall we hope to have ten LINKubator startups working in the IN2 space during the day when the kids are in class. We’re trying to see what we’re good at and get a rhythm to the space.

“So whether it’s somebody in the community with an idea or a problem—whether it’s students that want to accomplish something new—whether it’s mentors from the community coming here to help the next generation of learners—whether it’s subject matter experts helping a non-profit grow—we want IN2 to inspire students and community to go on and be entrepreneurs and develop their ideas.

“Our goal at IN2 is to blend in with IMSA and be that resource for students and community beyond the classroom. That’s what this is all about.”

Student Entrepreneur

Inquiry

“I think one of our signature programs is our STUDENT INQUIRY AND RESEARCH program or SIR. That really distinguishes us because we don’t have class on ‘I-DAYS.’ Those are inquiry days—that happens most every Wednesday. Traditional class shuts down. We have class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

“‘I-DAYS are meant for independent exploration—inquiry or research. On ‘I-DAYS, student go down to 1871 and other locations to intern for startups. Now, with the new IN2 facility, our students can work with entrepreneurs right here as well. Either way, through the SIR program, they’re doing research with mentors and business teams.”

Sue Fricano & Tami Armstrong

[I’m joined by Sue Fricano—IN2 site coordinator, Tami Armstrong—Director of Public Affairs]

Sue – “MONDAY NIGHT LIVE is an event put on by Dr. Carl Heine each week. He brings in speakers and he develops programs for entrepreneurs.

Carl Heine

“He puts external students on his TALENT board—entrepreneurial students coming in to learn the different stages of building a business and different skills used in building businesses.”

Tami – “A lot of the students here are part of that as well as members of the community that come to learn more about entrepreneurship.”

Sue – “At IN2 we are trying to give them the expertise to go out and make the initial steps of developing.”

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[Betty Hart is the Innovation Center Program Manager.]

Betty – “We have girls in the STEM program, which is a mentoring peer-to-peer program for girls in 6th to 12th grade.  We have events such as IMSA DAY OF CYBER, which focuses on encouraging students to seek cyber security careers.” 

Betty Hart

Betty – “We have TEAM STEM CAFE, which is a network of local high school students who host quarterly events focused on STEM related topics. And we have THINK CAFE, which is a community initiative that invites organizations to come in and pitch a problem or an idea.”

Britta – “Our charges really are this: The first is to be a STEM teaching/learning laboratory for our best and brightest students across the state. Then we have the FUSION programs.3 These are after-school programs at schools, grade 4-8, all around the state. And we also have the charge of educating the educators. We bring the teachers in and give them professional development, which helps them in science and math.”

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Bring Back Socrates

[I pose a thorny question:  Why teach entrepreneurship at such an early age, rather than prepare the students for college or jobs?]

Tami – “What we’re doing is launching the students so when they leave here, they’re prepared. There’s a big demand for ideas and innovation. Innovation is valuable, and very coveted. We’re supplying that to the workforce.

“We’re also launching research. How can students advance the human condition and solve the world’s grandest challenges?

“That’s what comes from IN2—the ability to make very difficult innovations. When you can harness them, bring them to a place like this, and connect the students with business and industry, dream and idea become reality.”

[Suddenly I get it. I asked the wrong question and now realize the goal is really quite straightforward—to encourage students to think for themselves—to let them discover how to learn. IMSA does it the same way it was done almost 2,500 years ago—self-directed inquiry and innovation—the Socratic Method.]

Student Entrepreneur

Possibilities

Britta – “People think we’re just this gifted school for 650 sophomores, juniors, and seniors from around the state, but we’re not. And people think we’re a private school and we’re not—we’re public. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret in Illinois.”

“And we have a student team called IMSA ELEMENT that teaches the lean startup methodology. Build—measure—learn. Students developed a whole curriculum and teach it to each other. We’re entertaining possibilities.”

  • “We need to be open to ideas, be able to move quickly, and say YES.”
  • “And have FAST FAILS.”
  • “And move toward SUCCESS and ITERATE.”

“We’re not afraid to do that here. In a world where you’re dealing with high-caliber students who don’t fail often, failure is a difficult concept. But once they get the hang of it, they actually become quite good at fast fails.”

Entrepreneur with a solution

The 17%

Britta – “We’re not looking for the vast majority to really understand this space, because we can’t hold everybody. But about 17% in the world are innovators. That’s who we’re looking for—that 17%. Once we get a few of those, they bring their networks. Those are the early adopters, innovators, and they see things much earlier.”

Those are the people IN2 was built to serve.

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This is the final article in this series.

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Go to Part 2 – POWER PITCH

 Go to next series – TOP OF THE LIST

 

References

  1. BOWLING ALONE – Robert Putnam
  2. IN2 Launches LINKubator for Fox Valley Startups
  3. IMSA FUSION

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IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Impact Investing, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, Mobile App, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Social Media, Software, Startup, startup company, Venture

THE NAME IS IN2

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—highly gifted in math and science—a state-of-the-art facility entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship? This could be the best-designed business incubator on the planet and the students are going to create real businesses here. Hey—this is too much fun! It sure doesn’t look like high school to me! Where did they put the usual long halls walled by the usual rows of lockers? Where are the standardized rigid rectangular classrooms?

This is IN2, the new entrepreneurship center at IMSA—the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy—the Statewide high school for the best and the brightest. It’s located near Chicago and students live on campus, as if attending a university four years too soon.

IMSA will host a big party and ribbon cutting for the new IN2 innovation space on the 30th of the month—that’s the 30th anniversary of the school’s founding. I had the unique opportunity to preview this amazing facility. Here’s a sneak peek:

IN2 at IMSA (Note the unique tables and ping pong net)

Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer here, and led the team that put this together. As I fumble to get my recorder going, I ask her how they pulled it off. Without any hesitation, she pours out an amazing story—so here it is, verbatim:

[First of all, I asked about the name—IN2. What does it mean?]

“Innovation and Inquiry. When people were in focus groups and asked about IMSA, those were the two words that came up over and over. So the company we worked with used Inquiry & Innovation as IN-IN. That’s why it’s called IN2. So you can say, ‘What are you IN2?’ It can be playful.”

Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer

“The story actually goes back 10 years. It was decided an innovation hub would be built—a physical space and a virtual space.

“Three and a half years ago, we got a gift of one million dollars from Steve Chen to build the innovation center, so then the work really began.”

[Chen is an IMSA alum and co-founder of YouTube and AVOS. I asked Britta how they came up with such a wonderful design]

“I got tapped, as chief innovation officer, to figure out what this would be, what it would look like, how it would operate, how it would be funded. It would have to be a private revenue stream to support this.”

[ALERT—All you budget hawks. She’s talking private funding—and she’s got the corporate connections and alumni to do it.]

Maker Space

“So I brought along students to Silicon Valley—15 of them. We went through Chicago to spaces like Northwestern, IIT, University of Chicago, Fermilab, Argon, 1871, Private Industry Chicago, Next Door, and we also went out to Boston to visit MIT Media Lab, and other spaces out there, including artist colonies to be inspired to by what people were doing coast-to-coast in innovation spaces.”

Multi-use conference rooms

“That was a 2-year research project and included the students all the way. They worked in three teams—Developing Technology, Programming, and Facilities. They helped co-design the space, because they are the users, and too many times, we design things in a box outside of the users. So we implemented a user-designed thinking approach.”

Lab space

“We went to Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AVOS, which is Steve Chen’s newest startup, WeWork, which is a co-working space, and Stanford’s StartX, so we literally have done our due diligence.

“And I asked, ‘What space gets used the most? What’s your favorite thing? And what did you do wrong?’

“It doesn’t mean that those things will all work here, but it’s likely that we might have success if somebody else already has. So we synthesized all of that and I became what is known as the ‘hashtag’ Super-User. And the Super-User is the one that funnels all of this information to the architects, because now it actually has to be designed.”

Idea space

“We went to the community. We came together—58 of us—anyone from a Chicago Public School teacher to a city administrator with City of St. Charles. We got public, private, parents, past parents, teachers—everybody came together and literally built models of this space. We went through the design process with architects, we used Cordogan Clark in Aurora, and we built this—it took about a year to build from the time we broke ground and now we’re opening up.”

Sharing space

“So all the spaces here are influenced either by student ideas or places coast-to-coast that we visited. And so we’d probably say that we’re the first secondary school innovation center in Illinois, and dare we say the United States because we haven’t been able to find something like this. First-to-market is great for Illinois, great for Aurora, and puts IMSA on the map. We invite people to come in and see what we’ve built here.”

Collaboration space

“This is really meant as a convening space. Innovation doesn’t happen unless there are people here. We learned from going coast-to-coast that you can have the coolest space ever, but if there’s nobody there, there’s no innovation happening. There’s nothing happening. It’s all about connecting people.”

Coffee Bar

“One of the biggest places we found is around food. So we have a built-in cafe around the corner because you want to meet somebody for a cup of coffee. You just want to have a casual conversation. You want to have a back-of-the-napkin sketch, that can happen there or it can happen in our idea bar.

“We have Idea Baristas that we’re training. They actually wear aprons, and will help people advance their ideas here. They’re all volunteers.”

Idea Baristas.

We’ve got a mentoring office like 1871. We hope by the fall to have regular office hours. So I am a non-profit mentor. On Tuesdays from 4-6:00, I volunteer my time to mentor non-profits in the community. I can go to them. They can come to us.”

Mentoring Office

“Mike McCool, who’s an alum and a software engineer, wanted to donate and I said, ‘How ‘bout we get the McCool View?’ So he funded the beautiful windows that we have.”

The McCool View

“Our reach—about advancing the human condition—can, I think, really be actualized through this space. Not that we weren’t doing it—it just gives us that new front door. The space is just literally right by the front door.”

A huge competition between student startup companies— POWER PITCH—is going on here today. I’ll give you an inside look at that in the second article in this series.

Moises Goldman – Judge at POWER PITCH

I run into an old friend, Moises Goldman—angel investor, a big driver at MIT, and an important contributor at IMSA. Today he’s one of 17 judges at POWER PITCH. I ask him what he thinks of the new facility. Moises responds in his gentle, deliberate, and old-world manner, condensing his thoughts into a few words:

“I think it’s always been the desire to be in a type of space that recognized talented students. This is our recognition of these students. That makes a difference to me.”

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Notable IMSA Alums

The school’s alumni reflect its excellence. Browse through a few:

Steve Chen – Co-founder/Chief Technology Officer of YouTube and AVOS. Early engineer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Chen

Steve Crutchfield – Chicago Trading Company. CBOE Advisory Board, Head of Options, ETPs, Bonds at NYSE Euronext.  2012 Crain’s Forty Under 40.

http://marketswiki.com/wiki/Steven_Crutchfield

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Dr. Julia Comerford – Astronomer. Discovered several supermassive black hole pairs—occurring in the merger of galaxies.

http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/pair-black-holes-distant-galaxy-03546.html

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Dr. Scott Gaudi – Astronomer, discovered over a dozen new planets and a new solar system.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/06/president-obama-honors-dr-b-scott-gaudi-91-highest-honor-early-career-scien

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~gaudi/

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Nathan Gettings – Co-founder of Palantir. Founder of robotics company Robotex.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies

Also – http://www.robotex.com/

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Ramez Naam – Software developer and international bestselling author. Developer at Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer projects.

https://www.amazon.com/Ramez-Naam/e/B001IOH84S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1489516515&sr=8-2-ent

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Mike McCool – Software Engineer at Google, Robot Invader, Aechelon Technology, Netscape, and many others.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.robotinvader.fooding&hl=en

Rob McCool – Software developer and author. Developed the original NCSA Web server, later known as the Apache HTTP Server. Part of original NCSA Mosaic team with his twin brother Mike.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCool

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Tim Meyer, PhD – Chief Operating Officer, Fermilab

http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/timothy-meyer.html

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Yu Pan – Co-creator of PayPal and the first employee at You Tube. Co-founder of kid’s kraft company Kiwi Crate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Pan

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Dwan Prude – Financial Analyst, Boeing Company. Motivational speaker.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/20/dwan-prude-97-gives-passionate-and-motivational-2012-convocation-address

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Russel Simmons – Co-founder of Yelp. Early developer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Simmons

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Clara Shih – Bestselling author, THE FACEBOOK ERA. Founder of Hearsay systems. In 2010, she was named one of most influential women in tech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Shih

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Kevin Wang – Founder of TL;DR Legal. Theil Foundation fellowship recipient.

https://www.imsa.edu/academics/talent/kevin-wang-new-thiel-fellow

Also – http://www.geekwire.com/2012/kevin-wang/

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Sam Yagan – American internet entrepreneur. Co-founder of SparkNotes and OkCupid. CEO Match.com. Named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Yagan

 

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Hope you enjoyed Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Read Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Go to Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

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IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company

APPLESAUCE AND APPLE

THE FINANCIAL MINDSET OF A NEW GENERATION

Tom McBride and Ron Nief

Light Bulb

The students who began college this past fall have a forty percent chance of graduating in four years, and a seventy percent chance of graduating in six. Having grown up in the Great Recession they can rarely take money for granted. They are more interested in money than in love, unlike their parents, who may have grown up as hippie advocates of free love during the far more prosperous 1960s.

But it’s possible that the old hippies are their grandparents: yep, that much time has passed.

They expect to graduate from college in debt, but they must also worry about what sort of job they can get to pay it off. They are all too keenly aware of how easily a sophisticated algorithm can replace human beings in the performance of even high-tech tasks. They know that jobs—maybe including one that has their name on it—can be outsourced cheaper overseas. Some of them are growing up in states like Florida where governors are pressuring universities to explain the financial prospects of their various major fields. They might love philosophy but decide to major in Geriatric Studies—perhaps the United States will run out of articles on Aristotle sooner than it runs out of old people living longer and longer.

Since they were about twelve years old the stock market has run a gamut of about twelve thousand points. The most precarious roller coaster at the nearest amusement park seems tame in comparison. They wonder if they will have the guts for investment in this sort of market when they aren’t risking whiplash in their necks (unlikely with the roller coaster anyhow) but cavities in their pocketbooks. Yet at their young age it’s silly to worry about the long-range future, right?

Still, they know they are coming of age in a world where pensions are becoming as infrequent as desktop computers, and where they may have ninety-five year old great grandparents still vacuuming up Social Security and Medicare. They’ve been told that a member of the generation just behind them may live to be 140 years of age. Where will the money to sustain so many geezers come from? Well, it’s too far off to panic now.

The financial hero of their generation is not old Bill Gates but young Mark Zuckerberg, who came up with Facebook. They dream about formulating some high-tech enterprise that will make billions of dollars for them, too. But what might it be? Replacing passwords with high-tech facial identifications? Nah: it’s too late for that—the research is already underway. When they were having their baby food applesauce, Apple seemed to be a company that had seen its best days. Well, look at how that turned out, so for them fantasies of high-tech riches spring eternal.

Rather anxious about money, they are frugal. There’s only a six-in-ten chance they have a credit card. They go debit, thank you. They’d rather have a new tablet or phone than new car. Autos are more expensive and not so necessary. They know a lot more about chips than about carburetors. They tend to congregate after graduation in cities with public transport, and they are a keen ride-sharing generation.

Besides, with Skype who needs actually to go there? One thing they don’t expect if and when they do get a job: lots of face-to-face conversation. It wouldn’t surprise them to learn that they will spend most of their working careers in their apartments—and of course in cyberspace.

They may become the first generation for which there will be scant old-age welfare, and yet also the first for whom it is largely unnecessary to leave the house for anything. Graphic virtual vacations to Venice may be on their way two decades hence, and they’ll be at lot cheaper than going there.

During their lifetimes the price of a first-class stamp has risen 65%. Maybe this has something to do with decreased demand for them. Theirs is a generation that rarely “writes” letters placed into envelopes with stamps attached. Going to the P.O. is hardly a ritual for them.

In their lifetimes K-Mart and Target have always been going in opposite directions. They expect similar corporate unpredictability in a world where popular websites can change every five minutes. They do not expect to stay with one company for long.

They hear about income inequality constantly and may cynically conclude that a rising tide lifts all yachts. Yet both the libertarian Republicans, who appeal to their sense of entrepreneurship, and the progressive Democrats, who promise to close the gap between rich and middle-class, appeal to their economic instincts, however unformulated as yet.

The one thing they should not give up on is education. One study concludes that if every high school student had the skills of every college student, the former would make $28,000 more per year. A Harvard study says that having just one good teacher for only one year can increase lifetime income by $80,000. In a time of gyrating stock markets, rising inequality, and scary high-tech chaos in the job market, it is easy to become cynical about an assigned term paper on the Thirty Years’ War.

But it would be foolish not to complete it, and get a high mark for doing so.

Tom McBride and Ron Nief are co-authors of the annual Mindset List® and of two books: The Mindset Lists of American History (Wiley, 2011) and The Mindset List of the Obscure (Sourcebooks, 2014). For their Financial Mindset List for the Class of 2018, go to http://themindsetlist.com/2014/10/financial-mindset-list-class-2018/

Photo credits – MS Office

Adapted from News From Heartland – the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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RAW TALENT

Sharks Tby John Jonelis

Ever want to be a Shark on the popular reality TV show? Wish you controlled a billion dollar investment account? Wonder what it’s like? I’m here at Chicago’s 1871 incubator doing it. Emotions run high. Hey, mine are running away with me. That guy on the end keeps grabbing all the deals!

Most of these teams are looking for $100K or so for maybe 15% of the company, but the Sharks seem to want more control than that. Offers meet counter-offers. Investors make hardnosed bids—they team up—steal deals—the usual shenanigans seen on TV.

Negotiations get heated and sometimes abstract. Lance Pressl works a convoluted deal structure in the next room.  No problem—both sides seem on track with it.  But I’m out.  In the long run, any of these companies might produce hockey stick growth or go belly-up.

20150723_131230

Dangerous Waters

Now I’m hearing a pitch from a company called Water Power. I want this one in the worst way. I know the industry. It’s a hugely exciting company with a highly attractive energy product, easily scalable, and a terrific business model.

They’re asking $200K for 20% of the company—a $1M valuation. It’s low. Way low. I tell them they’re undercapitalized and immediately boost the offer for a controlling stake. They counter. Another shark joins me. Meanwhile, that guy on the end is dickering with a completely different set of parameters that sound pretty good.

Ah, but I notice these teams value a strategic investor, so I mention my experience in the industry and that seals the deal. Satisfaction! Victory! Hooray!

20150723_131658

Merchandise Mart

Who Gets to Play

Did I mention these are Junior High Students? Not just any young punks—these are highly gifted, highly precocious, and highly competitive young people. Their pitches rival those seen on TV. Some of these kids are hopefuls for enrollment at the prestigious Illinois State High School for the gifted, the Illinois Math and Science Academy—IMSA.

This entire program is put on by IMSA TALENT. It pits the best and the brightest junior high school students against experienced investors and CEOs at an event that reproduces the popular reality TV show, Shark Tank. Hey, this is a blast!

20150723-IMG_2958

Pitch

How it Works

  • IMSA TALENT puts these kids through a fast-paced deep-immersion experience. The school maintains space at 1871, the enormous incubator in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, so the teams rub shoulders with lots of real startups. That’s huge.
  • Every decision, every action, gets entered into a computer simulation that spits out consequences and makes the process as close to the real thing as you can get.
  • Each team creates an actual product, design, prototype, business model canvas, go-to-market strategy, financials, their pitch—the works.
  • Sharks come armed with unlimited investment capital in the form of Monopoly™ Money and strike cutthroat last-minute negotiations. Think that’s not realistic? Once those dollars get plugged into the simulation, they’re real enough to make or break a company.

20150723-IMG_2955

Negotiation

Once again, IMSA proves that, given the opportunity and the right coaching, brilliant children can outperform ordinary adults. Hats off to Carl Heine and Jim Gerry.

Last year I got caught-up in the spirit of the thing, which is dangerously easy to do. One kid was so professional, I forgot myself. I lost my head and asked the team to present before the Heartland Angels. Lesson learned—School first, then business. This year, I keep that straight.

20150723-IMG_2959

Deal

Sharks

Lance Pressl, John Detjen, Brian Brandenburg, Jeff Prussack, Joe Guarascio, John Jonelis

20150723-IMG_2956

Team

Team Members

Alexandria Cannon, Alp Demirtas, Aman Shah, Ammar Ladhani, Arjun Vyas, Arshia Ajmera, Chandra Gangavarapu, Daniel DeBoer, Dev Singh, Dhruv Nambisan, Ellis Irwin, Erol Ikiz, Ethan Tse, Jacob Conroy, James Raflores, Joseph Tennyson, Joshua Tennyson, Katreena Subramanian, Madeline Drafall, Marc Peczka, Ohm Vyas, Parth Bhatt, Prarthana Prashanth, Shreya Maganti, Shreya Pattisapu, Shreyas Manikonda, Simone Seno, Sydney Elvart, Vismay Vyas, Yuhan Lin.

IMSA Staff

Jim Gerry, PhD

Carl Heine, PhD, Director, IMSA TALENT and Cool Hub IMSA.

heine@imsa.edu Office 630-907-5921 Fax 630-907-5062

Read related article: WHIZ KIDS

Photo credits – Students: IMSA; Architecture: John Jonelis; Shark image: MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE APPRENTICE MEETS DIGITAL BOOT CAMP

icstarg 1Techbash – Part 3

VERBATIM – John Jonelis

This is a story of high expectations, high reality, and high energy. I may as well give it to you straight, because Loop Lonogan would want it that way. He’s in the lockup. Too much hard partying on Twelfth Night. His guests spilled into the street and all kinds of trouble erupted—part of it involving a policeman he knocked cold.  So I’m here at i.c.stars headquarters.  Here to finish Lonagan’s series of articles.  I’m talking to the president and co-founder, Sandee Kastrul.

The location—downtown Chicago. The workspace—all business. I start by throwing out this question: “Can I call i.c.stars a social incubator. Is that fair?”

Sandee bursts out in a smile. “I love it—I love it. It’s all about transformation. Technology is a tool of transformation. Sandee 2We teach technology because it’s creative. It doesn’t know what you look like. At the end of the day you can be a rock star.

“But what really gets us jazzed about technology is the systems thinking and the process that’s embedded in it. If you can take that and apply it to community leadership, to organizing, to service leaders, to entrepreneurship, we can literally make a change in the communities that we come from. And so we sit between the leadership and the technology side. Our vision is 1000 community leaders by 2020. So everything is about the leadership angle.”

This gal is for real and genuinely creative and intellectual. I’m going to enjoy this conversation.

Then she pauses and cocks her head. “Why was the TechBash event so special for Mr. Lonogan?”

icstarg 14

High Expectations

“When Loop visited TechBash,” I say as I lean forward, hands clasped, “he met people that deeply impressed him. Everybody wants to give back—both interns and alums. They’re all wonderful evangelists for your program. He convinced me that you’ve really got something terrific going on here. I also think he feels a deep empathy with the people he met because, as you know, he grew up in a tough neighborhood—and he profited by it. Of course, with Loop we always have to consider the open bar.”

Sandee 16Sandee laughs at that and I ask her to fill me in. 

“Reciprocity is one of our seven tenants.” she says. “It’s embedded in everything we do. Our model is all project-based learning. You spend a week doing team building, leadership training, trust exercises, cross-cultural communications, and then that Friday the team is divided up into three teams that form their own consulting companies and they’re literally competing with each other for their first bid on a project.”

Now I feel a grin coming on.  That’s the kind of interactive hands-on education that I always loved and seldom experienced.  I ask her if the project is a simulation.

“It’s kind of like The Apprentice meets Digital Boot Camp,” she says. “Leadership objectives are baked into their project. There are monkey wrenches all the way through, and those things are scripted, but the software they’re building is real, the requirements are real, it’s all very real.”

How many of your people find work in their field in six months?”

90% placement rate for our graduates—within six months probably 95-100%.”

That’s a significant statement.  Amazing in any economic climate.  So I ask her for the details. 

“Four months of an intensive, twelve hour a day, project-based learning environment.”

“Homework?”

She comes right back. Sandee 6“You do the work until it’s done. I always say the difference between school and work is: School is all about you and work is about everybody else. Sometimes they’ll be here till one in the morning working on deliverables.”

“So twelve hours or even more.”

“Yes. It’s project-based learning. The student is in a meeting and client will say, Okay, we want you to build this mobile app.”

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High Reality

“Corporate sponsors come in with real needs?”

“That’s right. And then the interns figure out how to do it. Then in the last hour, we have a subject matter expert who will come in on a parachute from the sky and help them over the last mile. And what’s important about that from a pedagogy standpoint is that you are learning how to learn—how to figure things out—how to learn quickly—and how to apply that information. Sandee 7It’s not pre-teaching for later—it’s literally learn-for-the-month. What’s interesting is that our whole program is built on the premise that people who have overcome adversity have developed resiliency. And they wouldn’t be sitting at our table without it. Resiliency is the number one thing we’re looking for in our assessment process.”

That makes so much sense to me. I know she’s right.  Of course, not everybody thrives in such a setting and it takes strength of character.  So I ask her where she finds her intern candidates.

“We recruit from all over. Most come from the South and West sides of Chicago.”

Consider the magnitude of what she’s saying. Those are some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. So I relate to her what Lonagan described last night through the steel screen: “Some of the alums told Loop they felt helpless till they found i.c.stars. Angry. No expectations out of life. No hope. No reason to have any. But each of them somehow had the drive to try this program and somehow got accepted. Does that describe your students?”

“I think so. We’re looking for people who are fighting for something bigger than themselves. That and the resiliency piece. Sandee 9So at some point, they faced adversity in their life and said, ‘I’ll show you. You’re not gonna tell me no.’ And it’s that fight—that resiliency—that develops this tool kit that has creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, all these things. We’re taking that toolkit and providing different context for them to learn. Our assumption is they already have all the raw materials. The project-based learning environment says, You already know—we’re just giving you this other context.

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High Energy

“But you train them first—before they go into a project?”

“A little bit. A week.”

I sit straight in my chair. A week? Who can do that? She must be describing the hottest recruiting ground in the world. “So they learn to program while doing?”

“Yes. We also have night classes. Experts come in and teach a concept.”

“Where do you find the experts to teach?”

She grins. “We have about a thousand volunteers plugged in. The training program manager handles that. A technical coach is on staff. It’s a busy place.”

She’s describing a training program on steroids.  “How many recruits do you accept for a four-month internship?”

“We have capacity for 20 people at a time. We err on the smaller side.”

“I heard that you start with 3,000.”

“That is a very interesting statistic. The top of the funnel is about 400 people who are interested enough in i.c.stars to show the necessary commitment. Sandee 10What happens in that pipeline is quite rigorous: Four phases of assessment tests. At each level, people drop off. They self-select out. They might say, ‘It’s a little too intense—I’m not ready yet.’ It’s not as if we’re kicking people out all the way through—they’re saying, ‘I’m not ready.’

“The last leg is our panel interview. That really looks at resiliency. It is nothing more than seven existential questions in a panel setting. That interview has been THE greatest indicator of people’s success in the program. And on the job. And in the community. It really is looking at, ‘How do you see yourself in the world?’ Are you coming from a locus of control, like, ‘I’m a victim,’ or are you at, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Where do you sit? It’s very powerful. It’s like, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’”

Sandee 8Then she abruptly stands. “High Tea is going to happen now. It’s something we do every day. We have a different business or community leader come to the table and share their story.” She ushers me in and gives me a seat. “You’re going to introduce the person to your left.”

Introduce who—how? Suddenly I’m getting a small dose of what it means to learn while doing and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all.

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GO TO PART 4 – HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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4 Comments

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THE FUTURE OF LEARNING

Impact Engine – Part 3

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact EngineLoop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investors Day. I got an exciting report on the education of our kids. This’s real interesting stuff—and real important.  Ever’body knows dat education is the difference between living in poverty and not.  To tell the truth, maybe I didn’t pay so much attention when I was in school.  But that’s the whole point.  Lotsa kids in dis country is fallin’ behind the world bigtime

To fix the problem, forty-six o’ these United States already adopted the new CCSS standards fer their schools. That stands for Common Core State Standards ‘n’ they’re goin’ into effect real soon. So ever’body’s scramblin’ to get ready. Every student, every teacher and school is gonna get held to the same standards as ever’body else nationwide. This’s gonna mean a major shift in the way students learn.

Meanwhile, schools don’t know just exactly how the CCSS program is gonna get done ‘n’ they’re lookin’ fer answers. Seems like a big opportunity to me.

Hey, I’m all for anything that blows away the status quo in American education. What we got is broke. Ever’body knows it’s broke. And we’re fallin’ behind the rest o’ the world. Even Cuba’s got a better educational system fer heaven sakes.

Eileen Murphy 2

Eileen Murphy of ThinkCERCA

That’s why Eileen Murphy, a classical Irish lass, started ThinkCERCA. CERCA stands for something I ferget—maybe I’m gettin’ old—I dunno. Anyhow, IMPACT ENGINE launched this company ‘cause it’s gonna solve the education problem in the good old US of A. I think that’s worth doing.

Note to Editor – Hey John, you never edited my copy on them other reports. It makes me look kinda bad. This one’s on education so gimme a hand here.

Note to Loop – Quit whining about the way you talk. You made all those millions. You earned a Masters from the U of C. You figure it out. As always, I’ll print exactly what you send—but keep it clean.

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Da Problem

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah—turns out the US is less competitive fer a good reason: Way too much focus on lower-level skills.  No critical thinking. Not enough rigor. Not enough engagement. Mosta what kids soak up is ethnic media outsida school. The result? Our kids ain’t career or college ready. So whadaya gonna do? Here’s three options:

OPTION #1—THE STATUS QUO—Schools keep tryin’ to cram facts down these kid’s little throats.  It’s a complete waste o’ time. Always was. Always will be. Lookit me.  I never sat still fer it so whadaya think’s happenin’ in classrooms today? It don’t work. It don’t prepare nobody to go out ‘n’ solve real problems.

Look at it from the teacher’s side. Say you’re tryin’ every day to control six rowdy classes—50 kids each. All usin’ the same syllabus. The same text. The same boring lecture. Maybe that works for summa dem, but lots is strugglin’ and others is bored outa their gord. Enough to turn any class into a riot scene.  So lemme ask you:

  • How ya gonna do any face-to-face with individuals when yer time’s all used up controllin’ an unruly mob that don’t even listen to yer lecture?
  • How ya gonna custom-design dynamic lesson plans fer every student when yer stuck with one textbook that most of ‘em can’t even read?
  • How ya gonna set up an unbiased assessment that meets CCSS standards—uniform across all states?

Answer—You can’t. But that’s what the new rules are gonna require.

OPTION #2—SINK OR SWIM—We could chuck ‘em all over the side ‘o the boat and see who can swim ‘n’ who can’t. That’s the school I went to. So what’s the problem with that?

  • Maybe I figured out how to succeed or maybe I just got lucky—I still get complaints from people about the way I talk.
  • Alotta kids I knew never made it to shore neither. Not so good.

OPTION #3—ThinkCERCA—Kids learn critical thinking skills to equip ‘em fer life.  That raises a couple questions:

  • How does ThinkCERCA teach that?
  • How do they measure the results?

Aha! Turns out them’s THE questions!

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Da Method

Turns out the ancient, Socratic method is the way to go. It’s been around fer like forever,Eileen Murphy of ThinkCERCA right? So you might say ThinkCERCA is goin’ back to fundamentals—but they’re usin’ technology to do it.

They replace a school’s antique paper system with easy-to-use technology. The technology helps keep kids at their own individual pace. It don’t replace teachers—it helps ‘em.

The result? Teachers spend their time on face-to-face instruction. Kids collaborate with peers in real-life critical thinking exercises. Everybody shares and debates. Learning gets a whole lot more social. Here’s the 1-2-3 of it:

  1. DYNAMIC CONTENT—New material will constantly come online. They start with stuff created by their team of national experts. Then two million Grade 6-12 teachers will share and add to a common library. Collectively, those 2M teachers have the answers that get missed by traditional publishing. This I like.
  2. CONCEPTS FROM LEAN MANUFACTURING—One o’ the first rules in LEAN is to stop batching things. What you got in the classroom is a big batch of assorted kids up against one rigid, unyielding program. That’s gotta change. In the 21st century, students is gonna design their own learning experience and teachers is gonna curate the content. I like this, too.
  3. EVIDENCE-BASED ARGUMENTATION—This’s how ThinkCERCA teaches critical thinking. Students learn to gather evidence, build an argument, tie the two together ‘n’ explain it to another kid. The goal is to help students create viable arguments ‘n’ also analyze the reasoning of others. Bottom line—kids learn critical thinking. They can figure out the right answer all by themselves. I like this a lot. Lemme give you an example:

Here’s the old kinda question:

A car averages 27 miles per gallon. If gas costs $4.04 per gallon, which of the following is closest to how much gas would cost for this car to travel 2,727 typical miles?

  • A. $44.44
  • B. $109.08
  • C. $118.80
  • D. $444.40

I don’t care. Do you care? Ever’body remembers those kinda questions and we all hate ‘em.

Now here the new kinda question:

5 swimmers compete in the 50-meter race. The finish time for each swimmer is shown below.

  •  Swimmer 1 – 23.42
  •  Swimmer 2 – 23.18
  •  Swimmer 3 – 23.21
  •  Swimmer 4 – 23.35
  •  Swimmer 5 – 23.24

Explain how the race would change if each swimmer’s time was rounded to the nearest tenth.

Whoa! Makes you think, don’t it? And that’s the idea!

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Da Technology

ThinkCERCA is a web-based platform that gives teachers the tools ‘n’ content they need to create and deliver personalized critical thinking instruction for ALL students. Here’s what you get:

  • Teachers get web tools to create quick lesson plans tailored to each kid—just a few clicks o’ the mouse ‘n’ yer done! And these lessons are geared fer critical thought! In other words, kids learn to think ‘n’ they learn to express their knowledge and back up their ideas with real evidence.
  • Schools get a library o’ web-based content insteada old fashioned text books. The library is dynamic so’s it keeps growin’ and improvin’.
  • Students get their lessons right on a tablet computer. Hey, it’s actually fun, ‘n’ that frees up teachers for quality individual face-to-face education. And it frees up students fer critical interaction ‘n’ debate.
  • Lessons connect-up all the different subjects so kids see the whole meaning of learning every subject.
  • Ever’body follows a uniform standard across all states. What you get is an unbiased assessment fer each kid that meets CCSS standards. Principals are gonna love that.  And the reports is clear to ever’body—even parents.

Pretty good, doncha think? Then I hear Ray Markman comment so I prick up my ears: Ray Markman“This is a shot across the bow of America in terms of teaching people,” he says. “I wish I was going to school now.” And that from a guy who attended Erasmus HS in its heyday. [For more about Ray Markman, see the link at the end of this report.]

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Da Credentials

Eileen Murphy of ThinkCERCAThese CCSS standards are mired in technospeak ‘n’ ya gotta be an expert to decipher it all. Eileen’s an expert. She’s got credentials up the whazoo. This gal’s smart with a distinguished history: Teacher at Whitney Young HS who influenced their climb to the top. Founded Walter Payton College Prep, which is huge. In charge of 115 schools in city of Chicago. Consultant for the national council of teachers—a highly respected group. Member of the blended-school design team.

A web search turns up lotsa scholarly papers—and here’s something interesting: Some o’ them’s focused on poetry as a tool fer teaching critical thinking.

And Eileen wrote the highly acclaimed book—360 Degrees of Text.

See it on Amazon

Da Business

This is a “B to G” business model. (Business to Government) It’s a proven product with proven demand (teachers ‘n’ principals) and a customer with lotsa money (the public schools). Hey, we’re lookin’ at a 1.3 TRILLION DOLLAR MARKET with government regulation holdin’ their feet to the fire. I think we’re gonna see some real money change hands here.

Government is holdin’ the school principals accountable ‘n’ they’re holdin’ the teachers accountable. At the same time, teachers are finally looking fer resources that actually help their students. So the demand works both ways. That’s a combination I like.

The ThinkCERCA system is simple. Alotta schools already adopted it ‘n’ it’s working. It actually teaches critical thinking. It helps set up lesson plans. It tracks success. And it creates reports that satisfy the new regs. This is the way our kids catch up to the world.

I think this one’s a winner.

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CONTINUE TO PART 4

Go back to Part 1

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Da Links

Here’s a couple animations to give you an inside look:

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Here’s a terrific video of Eileen presenting her company: http://vimeo.com/channels/thinkcerca/55798073

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Find ThinkCERCA at – www.thinkcerca.comThinkCERCA logo

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Find IMPACT ENGINE atwww.theimpactengine.com

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Here’s that article on Ray Markman as promised

https://chicagoventuremagazine.com/2012/07/26/i-never-worked-a-day-in-my-life

Impact Engine

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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1 Comment

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