Over the last twenty years, Digital Safari Academy at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord CA has developed and refined the Innovation Project™ as a framework for project-based learning.
The results have been impressive – teachers report a “dramatic improvement in the quality of student work and student engagement in class.” Teachers say that the Innovation Project has “revolutionized” how they teach and have adapted the framework to other subjects.
The Innovation Project
The Innovation Project is an entrepreneurial training program for senior high school students based on the Silicon Valley executive entrepreneurship model. The semester-long Project emulates the real world of high-tech business and finance while integrating economics, English and multimedia curricula.
The Innovation Project’s premise is: if it can be imagined, then it can be made, marketed and sold … it’s innovation without limitation! The experience has proven to be a highly successful way to motivate students to explore business, science and technology while empowering them with the skills that will last a lifetime!
- Form a start-up company
- Design an innovative product based on proprietary intellectual property (the technology doesn’t have to be real … it’s not just cutting edge technology, it’s beyond the edge!)
- Design a corporate identity including executive roles, logo and tagline
- Create marketing materials including a product information sheet and a website or video commercial
- Create an investor package including a business plan, marketing plan with competitive analysis and 5-year financial projections
- Prepare a pitch to investors including an elevator pitch and PowerPoint presentation
In addition to being innovative, Innovation Project products must have an environmental, health/safety, or positive social benefit compared to current products and services performing the similar tasks. Primary themes for the Innovation Project include sustainability, social entrepreneurship and creative capitalism. Each Project company’s business plan must also include a lifecycle analysis that addresses both the social and environmental impacts of the product and offer solutions for mitigating negative factors.
Making innovation as cool as music and as exciting as sports!
Business Leaders as Mentors
Each Project company works with a Mentor throughout the semester. Mentors provide real-world guidance and insight into the process of building a successful company and raising money from investors. Many times, student presentations are equal to or better than those of real companies!
The Innovation Fair
The annual Innovation Fair is the culminating event of the semester-long Innovation Project. The Fair is staged in two parts:
- Tech Expo
- Business Plan Competition
The Expo is an interactive event for family members, friends and members of the business and civic communities. Every adult attending the Tech Expo receives $50,000 virtual dollars to invest in the companies that they feel are the best.
Student companies are scored in three areas:
- Written business plan and marketing materials – scored by teachers
- Team presentations – scored by the mentors
- Total virtual investment dollars raised during the Tech Expo
The five highest scoring companies are invited to participate in the Business Plan Competition. Winning teams receive Innovation Fair Scholarship Awards ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Revolutionizing Project-based Learning
The Innovation Project and Innovation Fair are part of a much broader vision that, we hope, will eventually include Innovation Fairs in other regions, states and maybe even a national fair.
We invite and encourage students and teachers from all high schools to participate!
Rebuilding America’s Culture of Innovation
As recent international test scores have shown, our 15 year-olds rank 24th internationally in math literacy and 20th in science – not acceptable in the ever more intense globally competitive economy. We need to take a “farm team” approach to raising the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators – start them young and give them lots of opportunity to practice along the way.
How do we motivate our youth to reach for the stars? By tapping their creative (even playful) spirits. Creativity and innovation are inherently fun. We are committed to inspiring more young people to be innovative in whatever career they choose to pursue. The world needs many more innovative thinkers to tackle the many problems and challenges we face. And for some students – particularly for those of less affluent backgrounds – innovation can be a very real pathway to a new life.
Invest in Our Future Innovators!
Every year our country spends millions on youth sports and entertainment yet almost nothing on programs that encourage our young people to be innovators and entrepreneurs. We need your support! Your personal or business contribution will go a long way to helping us develop our next generation of innovators who will be the foundation of our country’s future prosperity.