Makers Earning $45K After High School, Our Future Innovators

Today show segment showcases exciting new program that’s ‘making makers’ within high school.

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

According to the segment, The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 16.2%, double the national average. A new program in Massachusetts is designed to train students in advanced manufacturing, robotics and precision machining to satisfy the predicted 100,000 jobs that will be available in medical devices, biotechnology and other technology sectors. The program trains students in advanced techniques at vocational school, and students graduate with their high school diploma with 100% chance of getting a job in their field at rates at a starting salary of $45,000. As someone who believes in the value of a college education for the experience of broadening one’s viewpoint, adopting solid STEM expertise, dabbling in the humanities and more … the phenomenon does give me pause. Still, one can’t argue with the defying of unemployment odds. If they felt they needed it, $45K allows students to self-fund evening and weekend courses to earn the notch on their resume that contributes to upward mobility. Heck, they could potentially take Stanford and MIT Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free and amass a powerhouse of knowledge, allowing them to lead the U.S. rebirth of technology-driven manufacturing debt-free and on their terms.

If you’re a college track student, though, you can still gain these practical skills. We see a growing trend in Colleges and Universities offering Design Kitchens and Innovation Spaces complete with CNC machines, 3-D Printers and other prototyping, invention and innovation tools. NCIIA has funded a number of of these with its Course and Program Grants in which faculty get $50,000 to support University/College build-out of such programs, five page proposal deadline due next Friday, May 10th). We highlighted six such spaces at the Smithsonian during our OPEN 2013 national conference last month in Washington D.C.. If you’re a faculty member or student thinking about ‘setting up shop’ at a place the University community can openly access maker tools, check out the YouTube video below. You’ll hear six 3-minute talks faculty from U-Michigan, Georgia Tech, Rice, Stanford, Berkeley and the K-12 environment. Imagine a space, central on campus and accessible to students regardless of major or year. Imagine a space that allowed students to create Valentine’s Day presents and other personal items in order to encourage a culture of making, inventing and innovating. Imagine a space staffed entirely by students, developing strong student expertise and incorporating strict codes of safety. Now, imagine a nation of makers and entrepreneurial-minded young people, socially aware and passionate about tackling the world’s most pressing problems. College students don’t want to find themselves at a disadvantage to those who gained practical skills through vocational training. They’re dissatisfied with the pace of change within academia (Making, Entrepreneurship and Innovation seen as one in the same practical tool set College Students want) and many are leading the charge within their own institutions, like Jared Karp our Student Ambassador from Berkeley and one of the six speakers in the following video. While academia may be slow to change, students have more of a sense of urgency (with graduation comes repayment made impossible without a job). What’s more, they’re the customer! And that gives them a certain clout and ability to avoid institutional politics. Click and get ready to be inspired:

To inquire about bringing a Design Kitchen or Maker Space to you your campus, contact me at humera at nciia dot org.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Brilliant Student Innovations Address Global Challenges

The NCIIA grants program is one that has given rise to numerous student-led companies. Actually, given that NCIIA has been around for 17 years, many are ‘all grown up’ and employ hundreds of people, garnering millions in economic impact…. but I want to highlight the ones that one might classify as ‘International Development’. If you’re from a campus that has a well-developed programs to help students explore opportunities for ‘social venturing’, you are lucky. Look into it. For those that do not, students should know that philanthropies, corporations and venture capitalists are investing in for-profit business models to serve the bottom-of-the-economic-pyramid customer base. Socially focused enterprises are thought to effectively address poverty through affordable services and products, including health care, sanitation, clean water, and energy, to those most in need. The NCIIA encourages students to apply for grant funding and create new ventures that benefit society, including ‘bottom-of-pyramid’ customers for whom socially beneficial products, like neonatal technologies, can be a game-changer.

I watched this video today and it hit home personally. Liya’s Diary, produced as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates ‘Living Proof Project’ video series outlines the persistent global challenges of maternal and neonatal health. My father grew up in a rural village in India. Although I was very young, I can remember visiting the poor dwelling where he and his 15 siblings lived. As a woman who has given birth to three children in the last 10 years, one who was born with severe jaundice, the notion that 600,000 deaths still occur annually due to jaundice illicits a personal and emotional response. Ben Cline is a student from Stanford that helped form Brilliance, a company that makes phototherapy devices for the developing world. We first met Ben in 2009 at NCIIA’s venture-development workshop which he had to leave early to catch a flight to India, to develop the innovation further and investigate the best means to bring it to market. We’re pleased to report that in three short years, the phototherapy device is hitting the market at a price point of $400 (see NYT article below).

What separates this success from other student-led projects that aim to have the same level of meaningful impact? Well, there are many but in my mind it was the early partnership with D-Rev, a Bay Area-based non-profit that has years of experience commercializing technologies for the developing world. For any given technology, market sector or innovation, the partner might be different but the importance of forging a strong commercial tie to an organization that has the experience, network and financial resources to move accurately and expeditiously towards appropriate commercial track is one of the biggest challenges for student ventures. Watch the TEDx talk (right) delivered by D-Rev’s, CEO Krista Donaldson, and the value of such a partnership is readily evident.

Last June National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) convened the Neonatal Technologies Forum with support from The Lemelson Foundation. According to the report from the meeting released by NCIIA last September, University-based innovation teams’ technology development and dissemination work is taking place in the context of a larger international development and global health push to improve maternal and child health. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five call for reductions in child and maternal mortality by 2015. The UN’s 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health calls for new interventions, including new technologies, as key components of an integrated global strategy to achieve the MDGs. Other aspects of the strategy include health systems strengthening, integration of care, support of country health plans, and ensuring access to comprehensive care interventions and services. Students searching for a meaningful way to do well in life and do good should consider ways to be part of the solution.

– Humera Fasihuddin, Program Manager, NCIIA

(On twitter @ihumera)

Former Student Entrepreneur, Eben Bayer, at Clinton Global Initiative

We first met Eben Bayer and his business partner Gavin McIntyre in 2007 when the team applied for an NCIIA E-Team grant of $20,000 to take their initial prototype out of their dorm room. For those who haven’t heard the Ecovative Design story, the team grew mushrooms under their dorm-room bed where they thrive … in the dark. Having grown up on a farm, experimenting with nature was not unusual for the duo. Taking Burt Swersey’s Inventor’s Studio course (which was also funded with a $50,000 NCIIA Course and Program Grant for faculty), was the catalyst for investigating useful applications for the Mycelia fungus. Known then as Greensulate, the team attended one of our Advanced workshops to develop a business model and form mentoring relationships with SBIR proposal writers. With a solid business case, the team went on to raise over a million dollars in business plan competition and grant funding. The funding enabled the team to build out their first manufacturing facility and hire their early employees. More importantly the funding enabled the company, now known as Ecovative Design, to de-risk their venture to the point of garnering early sales (replacing styrofoam in packaging for computers, window shades, surf boards… you name it). By the time they needed to take on investment, Ecovative had developed significant value in their business and attracted 3M and Sealed Air as strategic investors.

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge was one of the early competitions that helped fuel the company’s growth. This photo shows 2008 PLGC winner Eben Bayer, MD Marieke van Schaik and founder Boudewijn Poelmann on stage with President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) after Poelmannn announced PLGC’s Commitment to Action to upscale the program globally.