Innovators take on improving schools with Startup Weekend Education

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) is aimed at improving education and schools by harnessing the power of innovation to create new tools, learning models and schools of thought. University of Denver hosted SWEDU from June 10 to June 12.

The Happy team won first place at the event and three tickets to SXSWEDU in 2017. The team is focussed on creating a way to help students communicate their emotional state. It also will allow teachers and administrators to track student emotions and understand how they tie into incidents and the school's culture. The team also tied for the people's choice award with Youprentice, to match underserved students with paid apprenticeships. Teachify took second place overall and Syllabusy took third. Teachify is tackling boring online education and Syllabus is working to help freshmen manage their time better. 

"The focus of the weekend is about tackling challenges in education -- it is also about breaking down the walls of communication that sometimes exist between these groups, connecting them with one another, and letting them experience the process of entrepreneurship together," explains Katy Kappler, co-founder and president of Crafted Education, one of the event's organizers.

"SWEDU embraces education in the broadest sense, including ideas focused on early childhood, K-12, higher ed and continuing education, professional learning, et cetera," Kappler says. "It is focused on bringing together individuals from across the education spectrum -- including students, educators, administrators, developers, designers and entrepreneurs who have a passion for improving the education space."

"We welcome solutions to any educational challenge. We have intentionally left this open, so the diversity of participants is wide," says Lauren Almon Dietz, school happiness ambassador for Schoolrunner, another organizer. "Any idea with the intention to promote education and learning is fitting."

The project is intentionally open to solution types, Dietz explains. Teams created apps, programs, toys, robotics or other things to address issues in learning. In such an event, "Teams will form around an idea and participants will be grouped based on team needs," she says. "For example, if an educator pitches an idea for an app and we have a developer without a team, they will be grouped together. We also have mentors with diverse backgrounds coming who can provide general feedback on the idea and business direction."

The three best solutions that come out of the weekend received free or discounted access to 4.0 Schools Essentials Denver, according to Kappler. "All three teams are guaranteed an interview with the AT&T Aspire Accelerator." Other awards included a people's choice award and a Pearson Learning mentorship package award for the Best Solution for Higher Education Learning Design.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
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