July 22-24, 2016, Madison, WI. An estimated 100 people came to the Discovery Building in Madison last weekend to participate in Wisconsin’s first Startup Weekend for Education. The gathering drew over 45 active participants, as well as over two dozen coaches and judges from some of Wisconsin’s most prestigious organizations.Organized locally by a team of education and business interests and led by the new Madison-based educational nonprofit, WeThinkBig, the event was open to public registration.

The goal of the weekend was to bring together educators, students, and school administrators, with tech, business and startup professionals to problem-solve and creatively design startup prototypes. The local program was part of over 20 facilitated around the world last weekend by 4.0 Schools organization.

The weekend’s activities were facilitated by local nonprofit entrepreneur, and WTB CEO, Kathe Crowley Conn, and EdTech professional Sean Duffy, COO/Co-Founder of Edtech Action, and Co-Director of Startup Next Austin from Austin, Texas. Madison’s own Becky Splitt, entrepreneur and co-founder of StudyBlue, provided the evening’s Keynote Address.

Participants pitched ideas on how to improve education, and were coached on how to develop the concept, business plan and pitch over the weekend. Participants varied from a local kindergarten teacher to software developers at Epic Systems to a medical doctor from the Chicago suburbs. Coaches represented experts in education, tech, business, marketing and legal professions.

The weekend culminated in a Final Pitch Contest to a panel of State experts, assisted by a student panel of students. The top three winners were awarded prizes that included passes to SXSW-Edu in Austin next spring, local advising services, and free membership to Wisconsin’s largest co-working organization, 100 State.

The top three winners were announced Sunday evening:

First place: FlashLapse. FlashLapse records time lapse photography of biological action in petri dishes using Arduino/Rasp Pi/3Dprinting technology to encourage better interest and understanding of science.

Second place: UFi. An online app of resources and simulations that provide college students a deeper understanding of complex financial concepts and their own financial decisions.

Third place: Random Acts of Mindfulness. Random Acts of Mindfulness (RAM) is a smartphone app for teachers who want to promote mindfulness in their classrooms that prompts customized and randomized mindfulness practices for teachers to do with their students.

Derek Block, a science teacher from Sun Prairie School district attended the event with his brother Joel. Both brothers worked with others to create an app that allows elementary school students to participate in space mission-based scientific research through interactive games, quizzes and observation. Said the brothers: “… We both want to get real science professionals in the classroom, and by making this (SWEDU) connection we have a chance to develop conversations with professors and people we met here. We want to get students with scientists, rather than just (have them) learn from a book.”

For additional information on the event, including judges, coaches, and event details, visit: https://madisonswedu2016.splashthat.com

WeThinkBig is a local independent, non-profit organization that brings innovators across the education, business and public/private sectors to collaborate, learn and advance excellence in education and student learning. It works to: 1) inspire and shape a shared vision for educational innovation in the region; 2) empower educators by providing tools, experiences and resources to realize that vision; and 3) engage across sectors to create partnerships critical for success. WeThinkBig created and hosts the Sparks! Innovation Showcase series, Camp Mad Media, Happy Hour of Code, EdTech Sampler and other professional learning opportunities for educators and business professionals in greater Dane County.


Organizing Team Members:

WeThinkBig, StudyBlue, Edgewood College, UW Extension, C. Blohm & Assoc., Weinert Ctr. Entrepreneurship, FieldDayLab.Org, Madison College, WI DPI, GMCC, WCEPS, WARF, CESA 3, CISCO / WTI & WCER