Three Dual School Teams Win Funding in International Pitch Competition

Created in 2012 by University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship and sponsored by Capital One, the Diamond Challenge is a global entrepreneurship competition for high school students offering $100,000 in awards.

All students in Dual School are developing projects to solve societal problems or create an innovative business. Thus, we had several teams apply to the Diamond Challenge this year and we were thrilled to see three of them make it to the semifinal round. Out of the 659 submissions from 43 countries and 26 states, the competition was narrowed down to just 60 semifinal teams. The following teams made the cut and were invited to pitch at the University Delaware during the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit:

GroundUp CS, a team comprised of two Dual School students from the fall 2017 cohort, Noah Rossi and Rohan Kanchana, from Newark Charter High School won $500 for their venture. Their goal is to improve the way we teach computer science to middle school students by delivering more engaging, hands-on lessons.

Rossi enjoyed the Diamond Challenge experience saying, “We got to practice giving a pitch to potential investors. We learned what to include, what to emphasize, and how to keep it all under 5 minutes.”

GroundUp was recently featured in Delaware and you can read the article here.

Education in Times of Immigration, a team comprised of two Dual School students from the spiring 2018 cohort, Valentina Maza and Tatiana Romero, from William Penn High School, made it to the final five of the social innovation competition. They won $1,000 for their venture to improve resources for English Language Learners at their school. This funding comes shortly after a $500 mini-grant from the GripTape Learning Challenge.

Project X, an idea dreamed up by Michael Wiciak and incubated during the fall 2017 cohort of Dual School, made it to the final three in the business concept competition. Through Dual School, Wiciak got connected with his Diamond Challenge advisor, Sierra RyanWallick, a Diamond Challenge finalist from 2017 and a Dual School mentor. She helped Wiciak find a teammate in Nick Barrow who could further develop the business model behind this idea for a new drone. Project X took home $3,500 for their business concept.

Wiciak says he will be “getting a 3D printer and some electronics to continue research and prototyping.” Through the Diamond Challenge they received a mentor and “plan on forming a company around summer time in hopes to bring this product to market.”

About Dual School

Dual School empowers high school students to launch passion projects that improve their communities and the world. Dual School provides a semester-long program for students and professional development opportunities for educators.

About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

What breaks your heart?

There are some questions that change the way you think about purpose. I heard a new one yesterday:

What breaks your heart?

What do you see happening in the world that you just can’t bear? That’s a good trail to follow. That’s a project worth working on.

For me, it’s seeing that people aren’t empowered to make change. It breaks my heart to know we have amazing solutions locked up in young people who don’t feel they can do anything about the problems they see. My solution is to apply ideas from entrepreneurship and design to help people take their first steps.

What breaks your heart will probably be completely different that’s why there’s hope. We all have passions and together we can amplify our impact beyond that of any individual. But the first step is to ask the question and start moving toward an answer.

Moving forward with meaning

Does anyone read a blog post because it has no typos?

No, they read it because it touches them or moves them.

I heard Seth Godin make this point on a podcast this morning and it really resonated with me.

Perfectionism can be debilitating, but we need to leave it behind if we want to make change happen. The user interface doesn’t need to be perfect for people to love it. Your website doesn’t need to be finished for you to teach someone a new skill. You don’t need a logo to make an impact in a personal interaction.

You need to be honest. You need to be generous. You need to be real. None of those things require perfection to work.

So let’s stop worrying about perfect and start moving forward with meaning.

Dream. Do. Learn. Repeat.

Four words that make a statement about the way education should be.

When we think about how school actually works, we’re left with the structure of learn, repeat, learn repeat until you finally get to do. There isn’t much dreaming in there and the doing comes much too late.

It’s subversive to tell someone to do something before they’ve learned about it. But I think that’s the way it should be. Dream of being a chef? Make eggplant parmesan. Bake some cookies. Try it out and you’ll learn from the process. Rapid learning is the way education should work.

I think the order of those four words matter. They all need to be there, and they need to be in that order. How do your experiences stack up?

Being right vs being generous

There’s a huge difference between wanting to be right and wanting to be generous.

One of them is self serving. A path where you put on blinders, and only look for information that confirms your original beliefs. A journey where you’re not looking for new insight. The end result is that you go nowhere new. You learn nothing interesting and you further cement yourself in one, narrow minded place.

The other route helps people. It’s a path where you’re open to possibility. Searching for new information to change your mind and improve your ability to serve. The end result is that you show up with empathy. You can look people in the eyes and see where they’re coming from. You become an expert in understanding.

I think we can all agree we need more of those right now.

Beyond light bulbs

Certain moments are the gateway into the more complex understanding of a problem.

Light bulb moments are better described as rich learning moments. They’re not always positive. Calling it a light bulb assumes that it’s a good realization. What we’re really striving for are productive realizations.

When a student makes a phone call and they learn they’ve been making a false assumption for the last four weeks, that’s a light bulb moment. The assumption was wrong. It sucks. She’s back to square one. But it’s a transformative moment because her eyes were opened and she made a productive realization.

The moments also look like a student who is lost and not sure what to do until he has a conversation with an expert in the field. The expert connects him with a meaningful project in a matter of minutes. That connection leads to action and a high potential for impact.

Those are the moments we’re going for, also. The common thread is that the student is in the driver’s seat. They need to make the realizations for themselves. They need to have their own experience. Our job is just to create an environment where having that experience is as easy as possible.

It’s deeper than a lightbulb moment. It’s more than an idea. It’s action.

Expanding the idea of prototyping

Most people think of a prototype as a rough version of the final product. If you’re building an app, the prototype is an app that is not fully polished. But really, that definition of a prototype is WAY too narrow.

A prototype is a test. Let’s look at a couple common examples and think about how we might prototype them quickly.

“I want to build an app for people to talk about ____.”

Make a Facebook group, a blog or an email list, draw your app on paper to map the interface

“I want to teach people how to do ____”

Host a workshop, write a blog post, make a YouTube video, compile a list of resources in Google sheets.

Just because you want to build a widget doesn’t make you a widget building company. Think about the essence of your product. Drill down to the core of what you’re trying to do. Once you have a guess about what that essence might be, build something as quickly and cheaply as possible to test it out.

Divorce yourself from the solution. Fall in love with the problem and prototype it quickly.

Changing the world

How can you change the world if you can’t first change one person?

Sure, you can invent some widget that touches every person’s life, but is that really world-changing? I think world-changing is much more personal than writing some code, creating a typeface or inventing new technology.

I think world-changing is about looking someone in the eyes and understanding them. Pushing them to be better and supporting them on the journey. Enrolling them on a trip from which they emerge a better person. Changing one person in a way that they come back to you in five years and say “you changed my life.”

Changing the world isn’t about being a marketing whiz or a business development guru. It’s about seeing people and being generous. It’s showing up and saying “I see your problems, and I made this for you.”

The thing is, it’s way harder to change one person than it is to “change the world.” You can show up and build something big without ever facing the hard part of having empathy and taking a risk for one person.

So before we set out to change a million people, let’s pause for a second and think. How might I change one person?

Design isn’t about you

I think design is such a powerful discipline because it’s fundamentally not about you. At its core, you are building something for a user. Thus you need to understand that user on a deep level.

Same with entrepreneurship. You need to know your customer, their tendencies, their hopes and desires. It’s not about you.

The practice of understanding that it isn’t about you is powerful. It opens up doors. It forces you to empathize. It changes the world.