Startup Weekend EDU: Calling all education experts!

Have you heard of Startup Weekend? It’s a 54-hour, weekend-long event that brings together experts from different fields—design, development, topic experts, and entrepreneurs. Participants come and anyone can pitch and idea for a problem they want to solve using technology. Teams form around the top ideas by “voting with their feet,” and then they take off on a three-day adventure to create a business model around the idea, code, design, and validate it. At the end of the weekend, the teams present in front of local judges to receive constructive feedback on their idea.

Out of Startup Weekend came Startup Weekend EDU, which focuses specifically on ideas for improving education. The 2014 Seattle Startup Weekend EDU will take place next weekend, November 21–23. But Startup Weekend was created by those in the tech industry, and the types of disruptive technology often resulting from Startup Weekend tend to be less effective—and welcome—in education compared to other industries.

Kishari Sing became a judge for the inaugural Startup Weekend EDU in Seattle in 2013 for that very reason. Looking at the list of judges, coaches, and mentors for the event, she realized that none of them had a background in education. With years of experience in the education technology industry, she volunteered herself for the cause and found herself judging the event.

An example of a startup that has been created through Startup Weekend EDU is MathChat, which is a mobile collaboration tool for students to help each other with math homework.

One of the problems with the 2013 event, Kishari says, was that most of the participants had no knowledge of education and proposed ideas for problems that were either too minor or too complex to solve with technology.

This year, the organization decided to put some guardrails in place by 1) providing themes for participants, and 2) vetting their ideas before the work sessions start.

For those familiar with the education landscape in Washington who are interested in participating, Kishari suggests thinking about a “single, real education problem that you can solve with technology.”

And those who consider themselves technology-shy need not fear, Kishari says. There are many people in the tech industry who are passionate about improving education but don’t know where to start; they can provide the technical and design expertise but need to match their skills with those who understand the education field.

If you’re interested in participating in Startup Weekend EDU, Kishari says to consider the following:

  1. How passionate are you about solving the problem you’re thinking of?
  2. If you don’t solve it, probably no one else will.
  3. Don’t worry about funding your idea. If it’s good enough, someone will take it and run with it.
  4. Trust your knowledge of the education field.

And, most of all, have fun!

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