Inside the West Virginia Hive offices in Beckley, a group of young students are diving into robotics, coding, and entrepreneurship. This is the STEAM Academy.
The STEAM Academy (STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is intended to offer highly portable skills, like coding and 3D printing experience, to West Virginians as young as five.
Younger students gravitate towards older ones for guidance. In turn, the older students are grasping the concept of mentorship and learning to share their technical knowledge with younger entrepreneurs-in-training.
While students were learning basic programming skills in the Coding Lab last month, parents hung out upstairs in the lounge.
Not for long though. Soon parents will have the option to enroll in entrepreneurship classes, while their children attend the STEAM Academy.
The STEAM Academy program launched in December of 2016 and will continue on a weekly basis at the West Virginia Hive, a regional business accelerator focused on fostering entrepreneurship in southern West Virginia, through May of this year. The program is offered free of charge to any student K-12.
A similar after school pilot program, geared specifically toward middle school aged students, is up and running at Beckley’s Stratton Middle School, where students are programming Raspberry Pi’s, producing commercials and product prototypes, designing websites, and learning to use 3D printers.
Currently the program’s directors are focused on getting the students acclimated to the technology, but they have their sights set on launching a business in the coming year.
This month, a group of middle school students from the Stratton Middle STEAM program will submit a business plan and pitch their idea for a 3D printing business to the West Virginia Hive’s business professionals. Later they’ll have the opportunity to incubate the business at the Hive and take their operations to market.
Over the next year, students also plan to assist local businesses in the Beckley area with website development, and more.
The programs are made possible by the WV Hive Network, West Virginia TechConnect, the Beckley Area Foundation, NASA SEMAA, West Virginia University Tech, West Virginia University’s Launch Lab, the Benedum Foundation, the Carter Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and a team of volunteers.
The partnership hopes to expand this model, throughout West Virginia, in an effort to encourage students to consider a career in a STEAM field and further establish entrepreneurship as a career path.
The Next Generation Entrepreneur/STEAM Academy will convene on January, 14, 2017. The program is free and open to students in K-12.
For more information, contact Vickie Webb, Program Director, at 304-222-5532.