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Early entrepreneurial learning

[Startup @ Sydenham]
Sydenham Public School students, Martin, Clara and Henry built a model for the outdoor solar USB charging table during a recent visit to SparQ Studios, a makerspace and design studio at Queen’s. (University Communications)

A new program bringing together a number of community partners is helping students at Sydenham Public School learn about entrepreneurship and fostering creative problem solving skills.

Through Startup @ Sydenham, students in grades 5 to 8 have been introduced to various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship, such as how to research an idea, overcome challenges, create a business plan and present a marketing campaign by guest speakers from Queen’s University and Innovate Kingston.

The students are also being engaged to create an outdoor solar USB charging table for the school and recently visited SparQ Studios, a makerspace and design studio at Queen’s. The students worked with Jordan Morelli, a professor in engineering and applied physics at Queen’s, as well as students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s APSC 100 course, who helped them develop ideas for their prototypes. The planned table will combine solar cell and pedal-power technologies with the aim of keeping kids active and allowing them to socialize while charging their electronic devices at the same time.

The prototype displayed by the team of Clara, Henry and Martin featured a round table top with the solar panel in the centre. After receiving feedback from the engineering students the solar panel was covered by Plexiglas for protection.

Holding up their model, the team explains they opted for a round table to allow more people to be seated and they wanted it to be “easy and cheap” to build.

The trio was excited by the hands-on learning opportunity.

“It’s interesting how we are learning about energy,” says Clara. “Also a lot of people in our class are really interested in engineering. They’re really, really creative and it’s cool seeing everybody’s ideas come to life.”

Startup @ Sydenham was created after the school and its parent council started looking at redesigning the school playground, explains Dorianne Sager, a parent council member and coordinator for the program.

“There is very little for senior kids to do on an elementary school playground once they are no longer interested in playing on monkey bars, so the challenge was to think of a way to keep the older kids engaged on a playground they are quickly growing out of,” she says. “After some discussions, including with Dr. Morelli, we designed a program that teaches kids how to think like entrepreneurs while at the same time gaining experience in design and working as part of a team.”

The program received a $7,100 grant from the Limestone Learning Foundation.

The outdoor charging table is currently being constructed under the direction of Jarrad Fairborn of St. Lawrence College. In May, students will test the table in the playground and will make their pitch as “entrepreneurs” to Innovate Kingston in June. An end-of-year celebration will be held at the Tett Centre on June 15 where the students can show off their prototypes.