September 9, 2014 by Amanda Bradford, NMSU News Center
Do you know a middle- or high-school student with a knack for creative thinking who’s looking for a fun challenge this school year? Registration is now open for the Innoventure program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.
Now in its 12th year, Innoventure encourages middle- and high-school students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve business problems.
Students from across New Mexico spend about seven months developing technology to address a specific theme and building a business plan to turn their idea into a marketable product. Registration for this year’s program continues through Sept. 19.
The challenge this year is to create an innovative product using materials that are recyclable – a theme selected by the students in the program last year. Marie Borchert, education specialist at Arrowhead Center who oversees Innoventure, said as many as 70 percent of the students in the program return for another round – some as many as five or six times.
“It really helps them to make the connection between what they’re learning in the classroom and the real world,” Borchert said. “Research has shown there is a gap there, and the more we can help them bridge that gap, the better off we’ll be.”
Many of the teams who participate are based at a school, but the groups can also be made up of homeschooled students, members of a church or Scouting group, or a collection of friends. All they need is a parent or other adult adviser who can help guide them through the project and encourage them to meet their deadlines during the development process.
Each team gets a budget of $50 to develop a product using recyclable materials. The students are expected to design and create a functional product prototype, a strong marketing plan and a well-written and well-organized business plan using the Business Model Canvas.
“We want them to do something to change the use of the material, not the state,” Borchert explained. “They need to create something that’s useful in everyday life.”
There’s no cost for the students or the advisers to participate, and signing up is as easy as joining the Innoventure social network at http://innoventurenetwork.nmsu.edu. Team members sign up individually and then form a group for the team. Through the network, teams can keep up on important information and ask questions about their projects, using the technology much as they would in the business world. The site also has video presentations, photos and resources to help teams along the way.
The program culminates in a competition May 1, 2015, at Corbett Center, when judges – including educators and members of the business community – will evaluate the teams on their final products, as well as the work that went into them.
“The judges look for creativity and innovation, understanding of the engineering concepts that went behind the products, and how well the students can communicate their ideas,” Borchert said.
Borchert said the goal of the program is to teach the students entrepreneurial thinking and give them hands-on experience with creating something useful.
“Entrepreneurs really do think differently,” Borchert said. “They’re able to take diverse sets of information and find patterns that lead them to new solutions to important problems.
“We want more of those people in the world, because our problems are becoming more and more complex,” she added.
Contest winners will be awarded high-tech prizes like cameras and tablet devices for first, second and third place. Winners at the high-school level will also each receive a $350 scholarship to attend NMSU.
Innoventure is supported by Arrowhead Center, NMSU’s entrepreneurship incubator, and by a $10,000 grant from AT&T and a $10,000 gift from Wells Fargo.