In Part 1 of her interview, Cristal Glangchai shared the motivation behind her decision to launch VentureLab. In an effort to get more girls involved in STEM through personal experience, the scarcity of women in these fields. Glangchai emphasizes the struggle girls have with a lack of confidence and opportunity in the field, as well.

 

The fundamental goals of VentureLab focus on similar principles as other programs and organizations seeking to change the realities around women in STEM.

 

VentureLab is uses the unique ESTEAM framework, which focuses on entrepreneurship and art in addition to STEM education (venturelab.org)

VentureLab is uses the unique ESTEAM framework, which focuses on entrepreneurship and art in addition to STEM education (venturelab.org)

A large part of the conversation in helping get girls into STEM is the need for mentorship. Some of the goals of VentureLab include building communities where girls can feel comfortable exploring their abilities and pushing the limits of their curiosity to realize their full potential.

 

“I believe that mentorship is critical to everyone’s success, particularly for women, who sometimes may be lacking mentors or not know how to go about getting mentors,” says Glangchai. “We encourage our college participants to mentor and teach our high school students, and our high school students come back to teach our junior high and elementary school. I feel like the older students end up learning so much by teaching, and the younger students are able to see a role model who has already gone through the program. Having a network of mentors is critical for encouraging and inspiring people to reach beyond what they think is possible and really helps with their confidence.”

 

Despite similarities in motivation and principles, Glangchai’s approach to getting girls involved in STEM has been anything but similar to the approaches of others seeking to achieve the same goals.

 

“Many people are already focusing on STEM concepts,” Glangchai says about her desire to take VentureLab a step further with its approach to STEM education. “We believe that true innovation and discovery come from the intersection of multiple disciplines.”

 

With that belief in mind, Glangchai has built VentureLab’s work on a unique approach known as the ESTEAM framework, which places a program emphasis on entrepreneurship and arts, in addition to STEM education.

 

Teaching kids difficult concepts, like entrepreneurship, is all about finding the right approach and making these concepts fun and relatable, according to Glangchai (venturelab.org)

Teaching kids difficult concepts, like entrepreneurship, is all about finding the right approach and making these concepts fun and relatable, according to Glangchai (venturelab.org)

“I feel like the entrepreneurial mindset has always been a competitive advantage of our country and is key to survival in our current world economy,” Glangchai says about her belief in the importance of entrepreneurship education.  “Our current education systems are great at teaching concepts like those necessary for STEM fields; however, we don’t teach kids how to apply their learning. It is great to know and understand technology, but it also important to know how to apply it in the real world, by creating products or services that will benefit society. Students need to know how to observe needs and create their opportunities. Even artists, or doctors, or lawyers may start their own gallery or practice and should understand basic entrepreneurial principles.”

 

As for the incorporation of art into VentureLab’s approach, Glangchai’s belief in this regard is that art and creativity are essential in any field, and STEM industries are no different.

 

“We need art in all of our products and companies.” Glangchai says.  “Art and design go into product development, website development, marketing, and branding. We have to think about how things look and feel to people, and how [they] affect people’s emotions, as well.”

 

Interestingly, VentureLab’s ESTEAM framework seems to simultaneously introduce STEM concepts in a way that makes them more fun and relatable to young audiences, while also presenting them with new concepts that one might argue are too complicated for younger minds. Entrepreneurship is a concept that could be seen as ambitious of VentureLab’s curriculum, given that many of the programs’ students are as young as five-years-old.

 

When questioned about the difficulty of communicating entrepreneurial concepts to younger students, Glangchai notes that the key is in catering your approach to your target audience. As someone who had never formally worked with K-12 students prior to beginning VentureLab, finding the right approach was a learning process for Glangchai, who largely based her brainstorming on her own children and what would be understandable for them.

 

Glangchai always tries to push her students beyond what their parents think they can do, and she believes they will rise to the expecations (venturelab.org)

Glangchai always tries to teach her students more than what parents think they can handle, as she believes they will rise to expectations (venturelab.org)

“I started making the concepts less complex and using simpler examples and words to convey the same concepts,” she says. “When we did the camps, it turned out to be a great success. The experiential learning is really key in getting anyone to understand entrepreneurship. In all [of] my classes, I always try to teach kids slightly more than parents think they can handle, but I know that for the most part the kids rise to your level of expectation. At first parents were reluctant, asking, ‘How can a five-year-old learn this, are you serious?’ And I would say, ‘Yes I am.’ Then, I had the parents coming back to me telling me their five-year-old told them they want to be an entrepreneur or that they wanted a 3D printer for Christmas.”

 

VentureLab’s success in helping even the youngest students understand and engage with entrepreneurial concepts is clear evidence of the feasibility of teaching complex concepts to kids, so long as the proper approach is taken. Before she knew how she would handle the challenging task, it was clear to Glangchai that these entrepreneurial concepts were important to pass along to young students.

 

“I think we should start [teaching these concepts] at age five. This is an important developmental time for children,” she says.  “They are forming new synapses at rapid rates. Studies show that kids have an amazing capacity to learn, and the brain’s plasticity and ability to soak up and understand information is at its highest level. [VentureLab] starts [teaching these concepts] at age five because this is when kids are learning to read and write; we want to build strong neural connections by exposing kids to problems that don’t have simple solutions. These are problems that make kids think and develop hypotheses, which they have to test with market research. It is an experience that will make a longer lasting impression for them later in life. We want to instill in them a sense of confidence, a sense that they can tackle large problems and turn their ideas into reality. Instead of the fear of failure that our education system indoctrinates, we want them to always keep their creativity, be open to trying new things, and being aware of opportunities around them.”


Check back next week as Glangchai shares details on some of VentureLab’s most popular programs, and gives us an idea of what the future holds for the entrepreneurship and innovation academy!

 

If you are a woman working in STEM and are interested in being featured in our ‘Women Leaders in STEM’ series, shoot us an email at blog.muipr@gmail.com or tweet me @tamarahoumi