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Community Members Brainstorm at Startup Weekend EDU

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People from around central Virginia are working to bring innovation to education.

55 community members worked together at Startup Weekend EDU to come up with ideas to improve teaching methods. The weekend is part of a network of events happening all over the world. Startup weekends are 54 hour competitions for designers, developers and startup enthusiasts to turn their ideas into prototypes.

Entrepreneurship, incubators and venture capitalists are concepts well known in business, but much less so in education. Thirteen teams are merging business with teaching, coming up with ideas to improve the future of education.

Startup Organizer Chad Ratliff said, “These tried and true strategies are working in bigger organizations, they're working certainly in the startup community and we think that they have a role in education and we're proving that this weekend

Thirty people presented their ideas Friday night, and teams formed around the top 10. Those teams spent Saturday and Sunday building business plans and prototypes.

“It's exhausting, it's long, and it's incredibly hard work,” said Ratliff.

For many, the hard work is well worth it.

Contestant Michelle Miles said, “They've given me so much support and it's just really exciting that they're trying to make my idea happen.”

Michelle Miles, a student at Monticello High School, has muscular dystrophy and struggles with hand fatigue in school.

“When I was looking for a solution for math classes, I was told there weren't really any that we know of and if I figured one out, I could let the school know.”

Her idea is called paperless math, a program with a keyboard of numbers and math symbols.

“I was just hoping to be able to bring my idea to life, provide a solution for myself, but now they're talking about going global and having it revolutionize math classrooms,” said Miles.

The winner of the contest gets a chance to pitch their idea out in Silicon Valley. They'll also get an interview with Imagine K12, an education technology incubator in California.

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