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Students blending entrepreneurship and STEM concepts

By Denise Dick

Thursday, November 3, 2016

By Denise Dick


A system to alert U.S. military personnel of a fellow service member: That’s one idea Mahoning Valley high- and middle-school students devised for a new product.

Youngstown State University’s STEM College and Williamson College of Business Administration on Tuesday hosted the Believe in Ohio Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Forum in Kilcawley Center.

Students heard from speakers both from YSU and private industry about how STEM and entrepreneurship fit together.

The groups divided into teams based on where they sat, and a mentor was assigned to each. They were charged with identifying a need, finding a solution to a problem and conceiving the technology to make it happen.

Each group of students picked a spokesman or spokeswoman to pitch the team’s idea in 60 seconds.

Matt Yourstowsky, a YSU graduate student who is pursuing his master’s of business administration, served as mentor to one group of students.

They identified friendly fire – when a military service member is killed accidentally by someone fighting on the same side – as the problem.

Yourstowsky said the team thought of a tag worn by military personnel that will alert those firing shots when a fellow soldier is within the area where weapons are aimed. It also will sense a heartbeat.

The team tapped Shawn Grace, a senior at the STEM program at Chaney Campus, to make the pitch. About half of Shawn’s family has been in the U.S. military, he said.

His team included Stephen Pethel, a Beaver Local Middle School seventh-grader; Devan Christoff, a Jackson-Milton High School sophomore; Zarek Jardine, a senior at Trumbull County Career and Technical Center; Noah Smith, a senior at Poland Seminary High School; and Imane Snyder, a junior from Valley Christian Schools.

Terri Fleming, an engineering teacher at TCTC, said she likes the project because it teaches students to think outside of the problem. It also teaches students not to be afraid to fail. That’s something that’s not taught in traditional classrooms.

It may take several tries to get a desired outcome, but students learn through those attempts, she explained. High-achieving students sometimes struggle with that because it’s unfamiliar.

Other ideas presented by student groups included a filament inside of pizza boxes to keep the food hot, prosthetic limbs made on a 3-D printer, a microwave that heats and cools foods and a headband that detects a concussion.

YSU is one of 12 Ohio colleges and universities hosting the Believe in Ohio program this fall. It’s a program of the Ohio Academy of Science and Entrepreneurial Engagement Ohio.