Tates Creek fifth-graders pitch STEM problem-solving apps to Awesome Inc. experts

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By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

Fifth-graders at Tates Creek Elementary took on the challenge of developing apps that solve everyday problems, and they came up with several intriguing prospects in STEM lab.

The catch was selling their ideas to a pair of experts from Awesome Inc., a local company that supports high-tech startups.

“Our group was excited to present and ready to get feedback. We wanted to know how we could improve our app,” said Meher Saini, who teamed with two classmates to help women decide what to wear.


The students had used resources like Forbes magazine and The New York Times to research what makes for a successful app, and they brainstormed about everyday problems and how technology can make people’s lives easier (Photo Provided)

The girls made their pitch with quick hits on the target audience, potential motivation to use their app, and the content of Ovice, which combined the words “outfit” and “advice.”

“Our app can help people improve their style and match the temperature or occasion they’re dressing for,” Meher explained. Their tag line was “Ovice will inspire whatever you desire.”

Awesome Inc.’s Elton Cheng and Keith Kurzendoerfer listened to each group’s five-minute presentation, questioned the students on key points, and offered some general advice. “We’re looking for ‘Is it marketable?’ “Can you make money?’ “Is it functionally possible?’” Kurzendoerfer said up front.

Cheng noted that despite their research and legwork, the gifted-and-talented youngsters didn’t have time to explore every facet of a startup. For instance, did they consider competition from similar, existing apps? And what about the production costs?

“Knowing how realistic your idea is is very important,” Cheng said. “You also have to find an investor or build it yourself if you have the resources.”

Eleven-year-old Samuel Mekoh appreciated the suggestions for him and his project partner, whose travel app “Around the World” would help users sort through myriad train and subway stations and busy airports.

“Creating an app isn’t that easy. You also have to think about effective communication, tell what it’s about, how does it function, and what does it do,” Samuel said afterward.

The students had used resources like Forbes magazine and The New York Times to research what makes for a successful app, and they brainstormed about everyday problems and how technology can make people’s lives easier. Then they collaborated online through Google Classroom, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Prezi to design their app ideas and multimedia presentations.

Finally, the students worked up their sales pitches. This class was somewhat familiar with business models, having participated in the school’s Entrepreneur Fair. But promoting a creative idea is different from selling a tangible product or service.

“The whole idea of how you have to get into a particular person’s mind to sell the idea to them – we talk about that in writing. But with this, they had to use a multimedia approach to sell an idea. This adds a different dimension,” said G/T teacher Claire Batt.

STEM teacher Ashley Faulkner, who assigned this project, wanted to give her students a chance to express their creativity while also problem-solving.

“We’ve started to get a lot of technology in our building, and our kids are so engrossed in it,” she said. “I pretty much let them run with what they’re passionate about. They owned it, and they’re proud of what they did.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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