What would it be like to let middle school students experience a Silicon Valley style tech-startup?

This week’s blog post is by a guest blogger, Brent Wheelbarger. Brent is the CEO of Trifecta Communications. 

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In February I found myself standing on the floor of the largest toy exhibition in the world; the New York International Toy Fair in Manhattan.  Hundreds of toy companies were also there, each presenting their latest concepts, making sales deals and providing previews of what we’ll see on shelves this holiday season.    Make no mistake, there were incredible toys exhibited throughout the massive event. But I soon discovered our product had a secret weapon, something no one else in the building had… middle school students!  

For the past nine months I’ve had the privilege of serving as a mentor to ten Loveworks Leadership students with the mission to launch an actual company called Real Tech. We were fully focused on creating an augmented reality wristband toy called Wristworld.  Following in the footsteps of Real Kitchen Salsa, we asked the question, “what would it be like to let middle school students experience a Silicon Valley style tech-startup?”  Real Tech was born, and has since developed a product that went all the way to New York… and we think it’s just getting started!

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Along this journey I’ve seen the future, not just of toys, but how the process of education empowers minds to reach further.  The Real Tech students are learning such a wide ranges of skills, including: computer coding, 3D modeling, product art design, business management, budgeting, sales and public speaking. All of this without ever cracking open a text book; and without ever complaining about the work we challenge them to accomplish.  Their education takes place in the context of building a company they are personally invested in and developing a technology-based product. At this point, some of them know more about Unity and Maya game development software than I do!

Loveworks appears to have created a magic formula for empowering kids…to an extent I’ve never seen before.  They give students a feeling of ownership in their education; creating high standards and expecting the best, giving them the freedom to create and develop ideas of their own making, and providing resources to bring those ideas into reality.  It hits right at the heart of research regarding Generation Z (the youngest generation) and how they prefer to learn:

  1. Working together in teams:  Despite what you might think about kids and their phones, they really do want to collaborate with other kids.
  2. Making it experiential:  Textbooks don’t appear to be the best way for this generation to learn…getting in the trenches does.
  3. Giving them ownership:  This may be the first generation in history that expects to have a say in “how” they’re educated.

Having participated in Loveworks’ entrepreneurship experiences, afterschool programs and special events like Box City, I’ve seen the power of this unique approach.  An approach that isn’t just unique in Oklahoma, it’s unique anywhere. During our team’s time in New York, we met with representatives from Nintendo to learn more about the video game industry and Nintendo’s approach to business.  Our students pitched them Wristworld and provided information about the Loveworks program. Nintendo’s representative responded with, “You guys are from Oklahoma? You’re really showing us what Oklahoma can do.”

But really, Loveworks is showing the world what kids can do when properly empowered.  They’re building leaders who will usher Oklahoma into the innovative world of tomorrow.  A world I’m excited to see forming today.

I hope you will join in the story! Click here to support the Kickstarter campaign for Wristworld.

 

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Brent Wheelbarger
CEO, Trifecta Communications

 

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