Tom “TK” Kuegler, co-founder and general partner of Wasabi Ventures, and Nick Soggu, Founder and CEO of SilverTech, are volunteering their time at the STEM Discovery Lab (Photo by Mike Ross, UNH Photographer)
“The world is a different place than it was 20 years ago,” says Tom “TK” Kuegler, co-founder and general partner of Wasabi Ventures. “We shouldn't be training students how to go to school and then get a job. We should be training students to get out of school and create jobs.”
Kuegler’s is one perspective on a topic of growing concern for communities across the country—students are unprepared for the 21st century workforce.
Kuegler is one of many business and community leaders in southern New Hampshire putting their skin in the game. They are investing their time at UNH Manchester’s new STEM Discovery Lab to help students better prepare for college and the 21st century workforce.
Launched in October 2013, the STEM Discovery Lab is now offering classes to nearly 100 students in grades 4-12. Students can choose from six-week courses ranging from NASA based research and engineering to mathematics of texting and mobile app development. High school students eager for a more in-depth experience have two new options: Engineering in Action and a Technology Start-up Bootcamp.
The Engineering in Action course invites students to spend a year with Eddie, a new type of robot from Parallax Inc. designed to foster creativity, innovation, and experimentation. Through four, six-week modules, students in grades 10-12 will learn the engineering process behind creating Eddie. The robot can roam autonomously, see in 3D using the Microsoft Kinect™, and be driven remotely using a wireless controller. The course begins in November 2013 and will be offered on Wednesdays from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Nick Soggu, Founder and CEO of SilverTech, is volunteering his time to teach the Engineering in Action course. Soggu doesn’t get involved for the accolades; he does it because he believes in education and in giving back to help the community. “The shortage of students pursuing technology-focused careers is very real,” says Soggu, whose 45-person digital agency is involved in various STEM-focused initiatives. “If we can spark the excitement for learning about science and technology through efforts like this, the benefits will be far-reaching.”
The Technology Startup Bootcamp is a 16-week course offered to students in grades 11-12. The course, taught by Kuegler, is for students with a passion to learn the fundamental skills needed to create a successful technology startup business. The culmination of the class will be a Demo Day held at UNH Manchester where the New Hampshire start-up community will be invited to hear the students present their business ideas and plans. “The goal is for the students to leave with a kernel of a start-up,” says Kuegler.
Kuegler modeled the Technology Start-up Bootcamp after a similar program he started in Baltimore County Maryland. The program has launched four start-ups in the past two years, with financial backing from Kuegler’s venture capital firm, Wasabi Ventures.
Drew Wagner was one of Kuegler’s students at Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County. Wagner, now a freshman at Loyola University majoring in finance, Wagner said the experience has been tremendous. “I started with not much of an idea,” says Wagner. “Together, TK and I worked on coming up with a problem in education technology and did a lot of research with students to discover possible solutions.”
Wagner developed a product and detailed specifications and then pitched it to angel investors, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs. The result is a new product called SwitchNote tentatively scheduled to launch in early 2014. In addition to a new startup, Wagner has developed a valuable set of new skills and a great resume.
“What do employers really look for? For people who can think innovatively and problem solve,” says Wagner. “Those are the things I’m doing all the time in my start-up…The things I am learning are really going to serve me well later on in life.”
Students in New Hampshire will now have the same opportunity through UNH Manchester’s Technology Start-up Bootcamp taught by Kuegler. Kuegler is looking for three to eight students with “an unending sense that they want to win.” The course meets weekly and begins in January 2014.
Kuegler looks forward to bringing his new program to New Hampshire and volunteering in the state he and his family now call home. “I’m going to dedicate time to building the next great set of entrepreneurs to take my place. I’m willing to take the time to do that even if it doesn’t’ benefit me directly…I think we have to do that. I have four kids and I want a good place for them to be,” says Kuegler.
High school students interested in the Engineering in Action class may complete an application available online at manchester.unh.edu/stemlab.
Students interested in the Technology Start-up Bootcamp are invited to attend an information session on Wednesday, November 20 at 6:00 p.m. at UNH Manchester’s STEM Discovery Lab, located at 88 Commercial Street in Manchester. Please RSVP to attend the info session by emailing Sarah Jacobs or call 603-641-4385.