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Silicon Valley Students Concoct Ed Tech Concepts in Invention Workshop

Students in grades 6 through 10 spent time coming up with concepts for education technology as part of a free Microsoft-sponsored workshop held recently in Silicon Valley. The "Future of Education Challenge" was hosted as part of InventionX, the Invention Experience, an education program to motivate underserved students about invention and entrepreneurship in STEM topics.

InventionX follows three principles: to help students make connections between the science, technology, engineering and math concepts they're learning with "real-world" applications; to provide hands-on learning and game mechanics; and to deliver culturally relevant content.

The event in Silicon Valley had students work in teams with mentors to come up with technology concepts that would help them learn in new ways. During the day's events, which included presentations, some of the students learned about what it's like to work at Microsoft, and the group watched a demo of 3D Kinect.

"Today's workshop focused on the 'Future of Education,'" said Henrik Scheel, InventionX volunteer and entrepreneur. "The goal is to identify solutions to challenges that the students see related to tech and learning today. We walk them through the five steps for invention--inspiration, creation, selection, prototype, and pitching. Our hope is to inspire these students to be the inventors of tomorrow." Scheel runs the StartupExperience, a two-day program designed to inspire young people to become more entrepreneurial.

Students from San Jose's Ida Jew Academies, a bilingual district charter school, participated in the program to get a taste of an "an entrepreneurial culture," said Principal Blanca Herrera. "In our community, kids don't always feel like they have the ability to solve problems and make a change. Workshops like InventionX...can help to give them the skills and experience to be problem solvers, and will boost their confidence when they go back into the classroom among their peers."

Event organizer Thea Nilsson, who works at Microsoft as a community outreach manager, said the company's participation follows on Microsoft's 2012 launch of the YouthSpark program, intended to provide education and employment opportunities for 300 million young people worldwide in STEM subjects over three years. "As part of that initiative, Microsoft partners with local non-profits like InventionX to host their events and youth programs at our Silicon Valley offices, hoping to inspire local students to imagine and realize a better future for themselves and their communities." That includes providing software and cash grants to eligible organizations whose missions and activities support youth development, she added.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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