Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Start-ups for Students

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am taking part in the STEM Teaching and Learning Colloquium. The third session is on "Working with industry to extend student research and professional skills using student run start-ups".  This is about the ANU TechLauncher Project. The idea is that students get experience working in a team on a real world project. I have a team of students in the program building a Better Webinar Tool For Teaching. Ideally they will enter the Innovation ACT competition and then launch their own company through the Griffin Accelerator at CBRIN.

One example of a project down the path is "Oz Guild", a system for cataloging trading cards. Another of the projects is "Accolade" to produce a digital badge system for education (this might be applied to ANU tutors).

One issue with start-ups is that about 90% fail. Rather than a negative, this should be a positive experience for students, who can learn from the experience in the safe environment of being a student. Computing graduates will be working in an environment where about 75% of the projects they work on fail.

Another issue with such innovation programs is dealing with when the student's enthusiasm causes the university embarrassment. As an example, a team I was previously mentoring created a survey and released it publicly, without going though university approval processes. The first I knew of it was when a query came down through a PVC, Dean, Head of Department, Professor and finally to me to ask "What are these students doing". The survey was rectified and back up the chain I sent the reply "We can't fault the students for having initiative in an innovation course".

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