By Kiesha Moodie
And the winners are….
This past weekend, a collaborative effort between TechStars, Teach For America, StartUP FIU, FIU Office of Engagement and FIU’s School of Computing and Engineering hosted the 2nd annual Startup Weekend Education edition. This year's theme will be "Creating solutions to improve equity in education." The 54-hour event brought together over 50 passionate educators, students, technologists, lawyers, advocates and entrepreneurs to design new solutions that attacked inequities in education. The weekend was made possible by the generous support of Knight Foundation and led by co-organizers Kiesha Moodie of Teach For America, Caryn Lavernia of FIU Office of Engagement and Wifredo Fernandez of StartUP FIU.
On Friday night, 39 different ideas were pitched, and a final nine were voted most popular and teams formed around them. Throughout Saturday and most of Sunday, these diverse teams, some led by middle schoolers like Nichole Ruiz from Dr. Rolando Espinosa K-8 Center and high schoolers Avery Rafilovich and Garret Goodman from Western High in Davie.
On Saturday, teams were coached up by local entrepreneurs, tech community leaders, and education specialists. A big thank you to Daniela Cadena and Giselle LaTorre from StartUP FIU, Juan Lopez Salaberry from MentorDay, Matt Mawhinney from LaunchCode, Willie Avendano from Zero1, Brian Brackeen of Kairos, Gianfranco Colombi of Goddard Robotics, Bailey Farrell of Ransom Everglades School and Leandria Vickers of FIU.
The final ideas were:
- HustleSprouts: an educational program to fight food injustice by empowering students as food entrepreneurs while activating underutilized school gardens.
- StandOutBio: A digital professional platform for high school and college students, designed by and for Generation Z.
- IntelliDesk: Making it easy for students to give teachers feedback on their lessons while encouraging quiet students to ask questions privately.
- FitMental: Tackling the bullying problem in schools through evidence-based curriculum, games and wearable devices that make schools safer.
- BillTrax: a mobile-first bill tracker designed for teachers and first-time voters
- iHav: an artistic contest platform to raise awareness for refugees
- CashFlow: an online financial literacy gaming and simulation tool, with ability to open real accounts
- myIEP: a tool to help teachers, counselors, and parents easily track and manage student Individual Education Plans
- Votty: a college-advisor chat bot produced by the Viery Academy team (did not pitch)
On Sunday evening, an esteemed panel of judges had the fun but challenging task of evaluating the viability and promise of the newly formed startups. Diana Santangelo, Director of Education at United Way of Miami-Dade was astonished at how much progress had been made in the short weekend sprint, saying “I thought these teams had been working for weeks!” Provost and Executive Vice President of FIU Dr. Kenneth Furton added: “It was great to see FIU faculty, Ph.D., and undergraduate students ideating alongside diverse stakeholders from the education community.” Dr. Lupe Diaz, Executive Director of Career Technical Education, was “excited to continue conversations with runner-up HustleSprouts,” a team of educators based out of her own Turner Tech. Maxeme Tuchman, CEO of Caribu and veteran educator, said of the winner ‘myIEP’, “if I could write a check right now to see them take the idea further, I would.”
Thankfully, the road does not end here for the teams. Cambridge Innovation Center has offered the top three teams co-working space to continue working on their ideas.
Winner ‘myIEP’ (pictured above) will be granted 3-months of membership as part of CIC’s Operation Launch Program.
2nd and 3rd Place HustleSprouts (pictured above) and StandOutBio (pictured below) will each be granted one month of membership.
The five ‘myIEP’ team members will also be heading to South by Southwest Education next year, courtesy of the conference producers and Teach For America Miami-Dade.
Stay tuned for what is in store for our teams as they continue to launch equitable ventures that positively disrupt education.
Kiesha Moodie is an architect of strategic solutions, a community engagement specialist, and a committed advocate for equity. She was one of the co-organizers for Startup Weekend EDU Miami. Follow her on Twitter @kieshamoodie