STEAM Innovation Club

by Leah Nofsinger

The Kentucky Innovation Network (KYIN) has been sharing its expertise in entrepreneurship with Winner’s Circle Robo Jockeys and the STEAM Innovation Club at Manual High School. The Innovation Network’s  mission is to grow companies and create jobs in Kentucky, in part by running training programs such as the Kentucky’s Governor’s School of Entrepreneurship, Idea State U Business Plan Competition and Lean Startup training programs.

Funding is the single greatest challenge First Robotics Competition (FRC) teams face, since startup grants must quickly be replaced by innovative fundraising in order for teams to cover the typical  annual costs  incurred by teams that run in the $25,000 range. As a result of this problem, Winner’s Circle reached out to KYIN to help ensure its team members learned to be good entrepreneurs as well as engineers.

During WCRJ’s training camp, KYIN trained students on the Business Model Canvas (BMC) tool, which is increasingly being used by entrepreneurs worldwide to develop new businesses and services. According to Christine Wildes, Assistant State Director at KYIN, “A business model canvas is a 9-part design that covers all the areas an entrepreneur must consider to successfully launch a new business… A new organization can use each of these sections to communicate about their business with different people involved in their endeavor.”

The model can be used for both organizations and individuals in any field. With this tool, an entrepreneur and their team “can consider all key components of their business and ensure that they are prepared for a successful launch. One element the model takes into account is a value proposition, which is, as Wildes states, “the reason or contribution that you offer to whomever your customer is. A good value proposition will allow you to clearly and succinctly communicate to your target market why they should buy your product or take advantage of your service. The business model canvas focuses on value proposition because without it, you will never establish the customer relationships a successful business requires.”

Ms. Wildes will be training students on the Business Model Canvas at Manual High School through the STEAM Innovation Club this fall. After-school training is available to all students on September 22, October 23, and November 16. She suggests bringing an idea for a product or service, but states that time will be spent on Ideation during the first training session in case students come without one. “We can pivot and work on ideas as we go.  Usually what you start with is not even close to what you end up with.”