Edtech visionaries hailing from Spelling Safari have emerged triumphant as the victors of the second annual Michigan EdTech Innovation Pitch Contest, sharing a substantial sum of $22,000 in business startup grants and receiving valuable legal and creative support for their ventures. The ingenious concepts presented during the final pitches will serve as catalysts for advancing Michigan classrooms through groundbreaking innovation, cutting-edge technology, and the invaluable firsthand experience of educators.
“Our groups demonstrated exceptional performance, and the task was far from easy. The constraints of a mere five minutes for the presentations posed a considerable challenge for our esteemed panel of judges,” elaborated Matthew Okoneski, one of the discerning contest judges representing Red Cedar Ventures. “Embarking on entrepreneurial endeavors is arduous, and I extend my commendations to all the participants for their resolute commitment to addressing some of the most pressing issues afflicting our communities.”
Securing the highly coveted first-place prize was Jonathan Marceau, an esteemed educator at Monfort Elementary within the Utica Community School district. He will be bestowed with a generous grant of $10,000 to jumpstart his entrepreneurial journey, in addition to receiving comprehensive branding assistance, logo design support, and invaluable legal counsel for his visionary project, Spelling Safari. This revolutionary spelling curriculum reinvention and software solution promises to provide elementary students with an enjoyable and adaptive learning experience.
Marceau affirmed, “Research unequivocally demonstrates that a mastery-based learning approach fosters positive student attitudes and yields higher rates of academic achievement for learners across the board. The data gleaned from the implementation of this system in my classroom revealed that students at all proficiency levels exhibited a staggering threefold increase in their exposure to a broader range of vocabulary, with the number of newly acquired words more than doubling.”
The second-place laureate, Jessie Feliz, hailing from Detroit, captivated the judges with her brainchild, Spanish S.W.A.G. This innovative program offers an on-demand language learning platform that ensures language acquisition becomes an engaging, interactive, and universally accessible pursuit. In recognition of her groundbreaking efforts, Feliz will be granted $6,000 in business startup funding, complemented by unparalleled logo design assistance and indispensable legal guidance.
“With Spanish S.W.A.G., our aim extends far beyond the mere teaching of the Spanish language. We strive to ignite an insatiable passion for languages, nurture cultural interconnectedness, and empower students to become confident global citizens capable of effective communication, forging connections, and flourishing within an ever-expanding world,” declared Feliz with unwavering conviction.
Claiming the third-place honor were Advait Paliwal and David Yu, both exceptional students at Michigan State University. Their brainchild, YouLearn, encompasses an adaptive learning model that enables educators to upload customized curricula, thereby enabling students to engage with AI tutors. The enterprising duo will receive a commendable grant of $4,000 to catalyze their startup venture, in addition to invaluable assistance with logo design and indispensable legal consultation.
Paliwal expounded, “We have been gratified by the students’ feedback on YouLearn, with many expressing how this groundbreaking platform has substantially enhanced their comprehension of lecture videos. Furthermore, professors have expressed keen interest in the system’s transparency and its ability to afford them insights into students’ learning processes.”
In addition, the finalist teams of eKinomy and BiPSE will each be awarded startup grants of $1,000 for their commendable efforts during the final round of pitches.
The Michigan EdTech Innovation Pitch Contest stands as a testament to the fruitful collaboration between Michigan Virtual, the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Michigan State University, Spartan Innovations (a subsidiary of the MSU Research Foundation), and the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC). This collaborative effort aims to bring educators’ visionary ideas to life, offering innovative solutions to the common challenges faced within classrooms. The success of this remarkable initiative is made possible through the generous support of sponsors such as Michigan Creative, Foster Swift, Consumers Energy, Meemic, Michigan Education Association, Case Credit Union, and LearningMate.
“For two consecutive years, the finalists in this prestigious contest have consistently exceeded expectations. The students and schools of Michigan are blessed to have such remarkable, forward-thinking leaders like our winners actively contributing within our classrooms,” proclaimed Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Michigan Virtual and a distinguished member of the contest’s panel of judges. “The winning pitches harbor immense potential to reshape education moving forward, and I hold great optimism for the future as these groundbreaking ideas spearhead our journey.”
The 2023 edition of the contest received submissions from March 20 to May 14, with the finalists receiving notification in late May. All participants of the contest, as well as other edtech innovators across Michigan, are eligible to attend an enlightening Innovation Bootcamp, scheduled for the week of July 17. This immersive bootcamp experience is designed to further explore and refine participants’ business models, acquaint them with the abundant resources and support available to entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan, and present invaluable opportunities for the integration of entrepreneurial and innovative teachings into schools and classrooms.