EntreEd and six regional partners worked together to bring the ESTEAM Pitch Series to local middle- and high-school students in Appalachia. The pitch series provided students the opportunity to ignite their entrepreneurial mindset and engage in meaningful entrepreneurship experiences within their local community. North Carolina educators, Scott Miller (Smokey Mountain Elementary) and Tonia Forrister (Murphy Middle School) shared their personal experiences with the ESTEAM Pitch Series and the impact that it had on their students.
“Smokey Mountain Elementary had four teams compete in the ESTEAM competition. I was the coach for three of the four teams; and my teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the competition for the WRESA region. The experience for all of the students was valuable, especially during Covid.
The journey for each team was totally unique and special. Smokey Mountain Board Games placed second in the competition and had two very bright, charismatic, and motivated young men on the team. For this group I was mostly just a facilitator who made sure they were meeting deadlines, following all the directions, and had the materials they needed. The struggle for this team was that they started with five members in the group, but one never participated, and two others lost interest in the middle of the competition. Despite this setback, the team persisted and thrived. Winning the ESTEAM competition gave these young men additional confidence and knowledge that they can and will be successful in their future endeavors. It was a pure joy for me to witness their pride and excitement in their success.
Another team I coached, Photo Pop, placed third. This team had four members, two who were completely remote learners. This was my most highly motivated and organized group. They met online nearly every week and stayed on top of all the details and deadlines with minimal intervention by me. This team had several notable strengths. First, they really enjoyed their time together, and formed some solid friendships. The social interaction was especially valuable for the online learners. Second, they have sold some of their product, and have materials to sell many more. The feedback from those who have purchased a Photo Pop has been very positive. Finally, this team showed tremendous growth in both product development and presentation skills. I was very happy to see all their hard work recognized.
A third team I coached, Nine Lives, did not place in the top three in ESTEAM, but their story should be told as well. This team struggled to participate and stay organized during virtual meetings. Although they struggled virtually, it was incredible to witness their teamwork, effort, and commitment when we were able to meet in person. They genuinely enjoyed working in-person together, and some strong friendships were formed during this time. Additionally, they struggled to make a viable prototype for their product, but their idea was very good. The idea was good enough for the team to meet with the Chief Engineer of OtterBox to discuss product development. This team undoubtedly showed the most growth over the course of the competition in regard to their presentation skills and working collaboratively. When they compete next year and school is hopefully back to normal, they will be a mighty strong team.
As illustrated by the stories of my teams, ESTEAM was valuable to each group in different and very meaningful ways. From building more confidence in self, to being able to work more effectively as a business. From making products, to making connections in their field. The teams all grew as future professionals and entrepreneurs, and I was very proud to be a part of their journey. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to compete!”
“The EntreEd entrepreneurial competition provided an avenue for students to learn necessary skills and have fun at the same time. Since my classes met virtually, I had a difficult time motivating them to participate in activities since they didn’t see a real purpose in doing so. The Pitch contest taught real life skills and the monetary prizes kept them engaged. I was impressed by how many of my students that participated wanted to give back to their community in some way. Through the project students not only learned business skills but also how to problem-solve and work collaboratively.
With the money I was awarded for coaching the winning team, I am purchasing furniture refurbishing supplies. This summer I will be working with approximately 80 middle grade students who will be learning about furniture design and how to refurbish furniture that has seen better days. I plan to incorporate entrepreneurship into the unit by having students record the cost of materials and the potential profit to be made on their final pieces of furniture. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity that was provided for my students. They learned skills that will help them the rest of their lives.”
EntreEd is grateful for everyone involved in the ESTEAM Pitch Contest Series that helped make it a success. Recordings of the live pitch events are available to watch on YouTube. Stay tuned for announcements about a regional pitch competition this fall, and subscribe to EntreEd’s newsletter for updates. The ESTEAM Pitch Series was created as an initiative of The National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education’s (EntreEd) Fostering Self ESTEAM in Appalachia’s Emerging Workforce project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The project helps middle and high school programs in a seven-state region infuse Entrepreneurship into academic classrooms with a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) initiatives. To learn more about the project and the ESTEAM Pitch Series, contact Amber Ravenscroft, ESTEAM Project Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org .