This last weekend New Tech High in Nipomo held its first Startup Weekend. We have had plenty of these but wait for it because there is a twist. This event was targeted at the high school level and I had the honor of touring the event on Saturday. Each team briefed me on the idea they were working on and the challenges they were trying to overcome. I can tell you that the participants were young but they were taking on and thinking about big problems.
While the groups were high school students the ideas were not kid stuff. All Startup Weekends have some degree of fun and silliness to them but these groups were really on their game. The ideas were on par with the other Startup Weekends and I would not be amazed to see a real business out of this event. This was one of those situations where you get to see the future and I can tell you the future is bright and so are these young men and women.
As I visited the groups one thing that really struck me was percentage of women in the groups. This event drew 52 participants and I was told that 40% were women. I am a math geek so I can tell you that this data is wrong but the truth is there were lots of women on the teams and many in the leadership roles. This is in stark contrast to prior Startup Weekends and I must tell you it was great to see. Recently Softec has been talking about the problem of attracting women to our industry and it appears that New Tech High might have a secret the rest of us should come to understand. Whatever they are doing in this program they may be laying the foundation to cure one of our industry’s greatest problem.
The other item that I have to mention is the teacher involvement. This event had support from a team of teachers not just one solo voice. New Tech High appears to be a different type of school at its foundation and we need to support these types of experiments in our local schools. We recently saw many of these teachers at our dinner on Women in Technology and if this event is an example of their work we better listen real careful to this group of educators.
Having been to a participant at seven prior Startup Weekends I can tell you that this was a very well run event. I was told by one of the event leaders that an overwhelming and consistent comment from the kids this weekend was:
“This is what school should be like”
Softec and our friends stepped up and supported this event because like all Startup Weekends it is perfectly inline with our mission. I need to give shout outs to the Softec members that joined with Softec for the donation to the event.