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October 9, 2013

Summer Program Turns Teens into Tech Entrepreneurs


As younger Americans fall behind their peers in other industrialized countries when it comes to math and technical skills, one summer program is teaching New York City public school students to become the next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs.

GenTech NYC is a free program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have otherwise had exposure to the world of tech and entrepreneurship.

“We look at GenTech as being their first step into this kind of larger tech world,” said program director Jordan Runge.

Over the course of the summer, students came up with a concept for and built a mobile app that improves the quality of education or city life for New York City students. All the participants came up with their own ideas, pitched them to a room of their peers, then combined into teams to realize the best of the app ideas.

The team with the best app would win a $5,000 prize.

To do this, students had to learn new skills like code, and worked with high-tech mentors from companies like Google, AppNexus and Microsoft. Students learned to defend their ideas and take constructive criticism.

“We have five mentors,” said GenTech participant Rajesh Ramkaran. “Each and every one of them attacked us on each — it’s like one by one.”

At the end of the summer, only one team could win the prize, but all students walked away with something.

“I hope that when they look back on this summer, they will say to themselves, wow, I did something I didn’t think that I could do,” said Runge. “And I’m very excited to see what happens after this as they continue to learn.”

Warm up questions
  1. What is an entrepreneur?
  2. Do you feel that school is teaching you enough about how to be successful in the world outside of school? Why or why not?
  3. If you could design a class to help you learn about technology and business what would it look like? What activities might you do?
Discussion questions
  1. Did anything about this story surprise you?
  2. What role does team work play in entrepreneurship?
  3. Do you think this kind of program is something you might like to be a part of? Why or why not?
  4. What is the most important thing the students learned in their experience?
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