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Here’s how invention and entrepreneurship fit into STEM education

Laura Devaney,                                                            September 2nd, 2016.

The STEMIE Coalition encourages students and educators to explore innovation, invention and entrepreneurship

A movement to instill invention, innovation and entrepreneurial skills in today’s students is growing across the nation.

The STEMIE Coalition aims to impact youth invention and entrepreneurship by acting as an umbrella organization for 600 K-12 youth groups across the U.S. and sharing best practices, evaluating programs and offering national data around invention and entrepreneurship efforts.

It emerged from the principles of the Connecticut Invention Convention, which was founded to instill in Connecticut’s children critical-thinking and problem-solving skills through invention and innovation.

The coalition takes those principles to the next level, aiming to elevate K-12 invention and entrepreneurship education to a national level.

One of the largest components of the STEMIE Coalition is the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, which is an annual in-person opportunity for young inventors in grades 4-12 to display their creative and critical thinking skills through inventing, innovating, and entrepreneurial activations. An online virtual competition for grades K-3 is planned to complement the convention.

The coalition’s goals for students and teachers

 The goal is to unite the “islands of programs out there” and help invention education “talk” to entrepreneurship education and take those inventions to the marketplace, said STEMIE Coalition CEO Danny Briere.

Four processes are part of the learning goals the coalition has outlined for students:
1. Scientific method: Proving hypotheses
2. Engineering design: Being given a problem and solving a problem
3. Invention: Finding the problem (as opposed to being given the problem) and solving it
4. Entrepreneurship: Finding an opportunity to apply the invention

Briere said he hopes the coalition’s national presence can help educators share best practices and curriculum as they implement innovation and entrepreneurship education.

This approach also has relevance to the makerspace revolution that is sweeping the nation, he said.

“Invention education gives maker education a purpose,” he said.

What inventions and successes have emerged from the coalition’s efforts? A lollipop that treats hiccups, an Ebola rapid test system, a portable IV backpack so children can play during medical treatments, and more.

The STEMIE Coalition is a composite of the underlying invention and entrepreneurship programs of its members.

Each year, more than 600 invention convention programs are held across the U.S., involving hundreds of thousands of kids, according to the coalition’s website.

Entrepreneurship education programs — including Lemonade Day, Guppy Tank, business plan, pitch, prototype, and other forms of competition — teach kids the self-empowerment of being entrepreneurial. The coalition will soon launch a “local” program feature to help educators connect their students with entrepreneurship opportunities.

The STEMIE Coalition also launches its own initiatives and helps support successful models across its membership. Current programs include:

  • The City Jump-Start Program, which helps teachers who otherwise could not afford to implement the program and helps students develop more creative problem-solving skills
  • IP Industry Travel Sponsorship Program, which provides an opportunity for young inventors to be acknowledged and rewarded for their innovative thinking, and provides the necessary springboard for small, burgeoning invention and entrepreneurship programs across the U.S. to expand
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