Printed in the Park Record on August 5, 2014
Sophie Desatoff stood at the front of the room, surrounded by her classmates and their parents, and took a deep breath. She pointed to the whiteboard behind her, where she and her two group members displayed a mock-up for an anti-bullying app they’d dreamed up.
Many school bullies, Desatoff explained, bully others to make themselves feel good because they, themselves, have been bullied. So Desatoff’s group looked for a solution and found it in the form of a mobile app that gives students uplifting messages from classmates.
The group’s app was the final result of the weeklong Innovation in Action Institute camp, which helps students think like entrepreneurs and create their own products. The culmination of last week’s camp came Friday, as the 15 students who participated presented their final projects in front of their parents and peers. Innovation in Action is based in Atlanta and offers camps in several cities around the nation.
“I really like the challenge to think differently,” said Desatoff, 11, who was finishing her second Innovation in Action camp. “You get to open your imagination and think about things people wouldn’t normally think about.”
Lindsey Mangone, executive director of Innovation in Action, said the program, which has received positive feedback from students and parents, hopes to broaden students’ horizons to get them thinking creatively about their futures.
Professional entrepreneurs spoke with the students throughout the week about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The students, in turn, were split into small groups and tasked with identifying a need students their age have and were directed to use what they learned about entrepreneurship to dream up a product that fills that need.
“We think schools today could use supplemental activities to get kids to think creatively,” Mangone said. “They brainstorm what their passions are and how to connect them with job opportunities. We want to help them think beyond and prepare for those 21st century jobs.”
Mangone said she has been surprised at the ideas students have come up with, adding their understanding of technology surpasses that of many adults.
“The students are a ton of fun to work with,” she said. “They have ideas that adults would never think of. It’s incredible, the ideas that come out. They are able to take what they know and create something else.”
In addition to Desatoff’s group, three other groups presented projects Friday. One group designed a machine that plugs into video game consoles and reprograms them to incorporate homework into the games. Another group came up with a website that offers teachers video tutorials on creating fun, interactive lessons to keep students more entertained and focused during class.
Whitney Tallman’s group invented a robot teacher designed to eliminate teaching inefficiency, shortening the school day to under an hour.
“School is too long and some kids don’t like it,” Tallman, age 13, said. “This is a way to shorten the hours and a way to get all the learning in in about a few minutes.”
Tallman also said Innovation in Action helped her understand what it will take to pursue her dream of one day starting a restaurant.
“I’ve learned to go out of my comfort zone and do stuff I’m not usually comfortable doing,” she said. “I wish I could do it again. I learned a lot of ideas of how to start a business and what an entrepreneur does.”