Kent State Engages High School Students at Innovation Forum
Recognizing the need to prepare young students to pioneer innovative technology and entrepreneurship for the future, Kent State University partnered with Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio to host and engage students at an innovation forum – NEO Innovates. The event was organized as part of a larger series of events around Ohio held by Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio.
The Kent State event, which brought together high school students and faculty from around Northeast Ohio, focused on the role of technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the economics of the state of Ohio. It was sponsored by LaunchNET Kent State.
John Klipfell, co-director of Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio, says the forum brings together STEM education and entrepreneurial thinking to help students see the diverse range and large number of possibilities available to them.
Mr. Klipfell notes that most of the technology that the students will need to interact with in their lifetimes has not been developed yet.
Four speakers focused on a variety of aspects of innovation.
John West, Ph.D., interim director of Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute, who developed a Kent State class about understanding technology called “Are You Smarter Than Your Smartphone?” talked about the interdisciplinary nature of innovation, citing the importance of infrastructure and the market to support and connect new technologies that enable people to widely embrace them.
Tatiana Stettler, Ph.D., Kent State professor of marketing and entrepreneurship, enlightened students with a discussion on how design thinking and entrepreneurial thinking differ but also overlap in creating new opportunities by recognizing gaps in current systems.
Jim Cossler, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Youngstown Business Incubator, spoke about “Disruptive Technologies Affecting Tomorrow’s Workforce.” He gave the audience a number of methodologies for ideation, including the need to “stop looking at products as solutions, rather to see them as problems,” which echoes Dr. West’s focus on the support systems and markets that surround new products and innovations.
Justin Hilton, senior administrator for community outreach in Kent State's Office of the Provost, took a more personal approach, arguing that the most important thing that students needed to design is their life. He cited research that most people make 35,000 conscious choices a day and showed the audience the power of purposing those 35,000 choices for positive change and innovative thinking.
After the speakers and lunch, students worked as teams with Kent State student mentors to develop innovative ideas working with a version of the Business Model Canvas, a tool to help evaluate innovative ideas through a business lens. The groups then presented their ideas to the audience of staff, faculty, students and high school teachers.
Lynn Buchinsky, LaunchNET Kent State venture advisor and key Kent State organizer, says the event was very valuable for the students.
“Many were surprised at the people and resources we have at Kent State for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Ms. Buchinsky says. “At least one student I talked to changed his mind about where to go to college because of this forum, which obviously we’re pleased about.”