BizTech Academy Inspires Enterprise

Cassie Solis | DCTC Exercise & Sport Science Student | Blue Knights Soccer Midfielder

Students find links between STEM, entrepreneurship and their imaginations

BizTech Academy students outside ECM Publishers, Inc., in Coon Rapids, Minn.

Over the last two weeks of June, 25 students from diverse backgrounds attended BizTech Academy at Dakota County Technical College and discovered the commonalities between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and the world of business while earning three college credits. The students explored new interests and experienced life on a college campus firsthand. BizTech Academy gave the students the tools to establish their first micro-enterprise and register that business with the state of Minnesota.

“We’ve been amazed at how engaged the students have been from the beginning,” said Lisa Bah, the college’s associate dean of business and management. “They brought a myriad of business concepts, from micro-enterprises to projects that would require significant investments. They haven’t been jaded by the business world—and in many ways, they’ve created some really innovative businesses.”

Bah pointed out that BizTech Academy was launched for the first time this summer and proved a great learning experience for everyone involved. The college plans to offer BizTech Academy to a group of 36 students in the summer of 2012. This year’s academy ran from June 20 to June 30 with a single follow-up for student business presentations scheduled for Oct. 20, 2011.

“I think offering BizTech for three college credits has been an eye-opener for many of the students,” Bah added “It’s really boosted their confidence. We have a few students entering ninth grade, some high school students and some recent high school grads. Together, they’re learning about the expectations of college-level coursework—they’ve all stepped up to meet the challenge with a great level of maturity.”

At the beginning of their first week, students chose between two learning tracks:

  • Option 1: Nanoscience Technology on the college’s main campus in Rosemount, Minn., for students interested general science, chemistry and physics—especially learning more about materials at the atomic or molecular level as well as how nanotechnology will impact our lives in the future
  • Option 2: Imagineering at the college’s Apple Valley site for students interested in invention and creativity in the business world, including management principles and the practice of innovation

That same week the two groups assembled at the Apple Valley site for team-building activities. They worked together to explore how the business of science and the science of business intersect, regardless of the type of product or service. Area experts helped the students frame their areas of interest and shape their business ideas.

(at table) Christine Pigsley, Marge Winkelman, Paul Moe during grant signing ceremony

On June 24, the students took a bus ride to ECM Publishers, Inc., in Coon Rapids, Minn., to attend a grant signing ceremony. A publishing, printing and distribution company, ECM is partnering with DCTC thanks to a $26,217 grant from the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership. DCTC is providing customized training to 39 sales and advertising staff, giving them the skills to compete with new-media technology such as Internet and wireless communications. The grant will also allow DCTC to enhance its electronic-communication capabilities, a benefit that can be applied to the needs of businesses and companies across the industry. Paul Moe, MJSP executive director, Marge Winkelman, ECM president, and Christine Pigsley, DCTC dean of student affairs and general education, participated in the signing ceremony.

As part of the customized training project, the students took part in a focus group exercise with ECM staff. Larry Werner, editor and general manager of Thisweek Newspapers and the Dakota County Tribune, both ECM publications, was present at the signing and also took part in the focus group exercise. Werner, who played a key role on the grant proposal for ECM, recently wrote a column for Thisweek Newspapers titled “DCTC understands public-private partnerships.” The column talks about how the partnership between DCTC and ECM Publishers came together.

Zalad Assignment

During the second week, the student groups again met in Apple Valley. They learned how dreams turn into reality—specifically what it takes to start up a micro-enterprise and make it a success. One activity was called “To Plan or Not to Plan: Business Plans for Early Stage Entrepreneurs,” which included a Zalad Assignment with teams competing to compose the most delicious and remarkable salad creation from provided ingredients. Team #1 with a southwest salad, aka zalad, took first place. Four points separated the top three finishers.

“Once BizTech is done, we’ll continue to work with interested students through the college’s Small Business Development Center,” Lisa Bah said. “I’m most excited for those who will be returning to us in October with business presentations. They’ll be competing for a $2,000 scholarship to DCTC. The winner will be decided by members of the DCTC Entrepreneurship Board. Who knows, the winner may find a local investor as a result. The college will also be paying for the cost to register their businesses as sole proprietorships with the state.”

BizTech Academy | Four student profiles

Cassie Solis

Cassie Solis | DCTC Individualized Studies Major | Blue Knights Soccer Midfielder

Cassie Solis, 19, is a sophomore at DCTC majoring in Individualized Studies with an emphasis on business management and marketing. Cassie also covers the left midfielder position on the DCTC Blue Knights women’s soccer team, which made it to the championship game of the 2010 NJCAA Region XI Women’s Soccer Tournament and went 17–6 for the season. She graduated from Farmington High School in 2010, playing varsity soccer for the Tigers her junior and senior years. Currently working at Best Buy in Apple Valley, Minn., she looks forward to taking more business classes at Minnesota State University Mankato after graduating from DCTC. Cassie is making plans for a career in Best Buy corporate.

On BizTech Academy:

“BizTech is a great experience. I’ve enjoyed learning from other people and seeing how they work together. I’m used to working as part of team and I’ve had fun helping out during the various activities.”

Maui Kahiapo

Maui Kahiapo | Spring Lake Park High School Senior

Maui Kahiapo, 17, is exceptionally active as a senior at Spring Lake Park High School. Maui is a member of the tech crew that builds sets and manages sound and lights for school plays. Tech crew also handles various renovation projects around the school. He sings in choir and plays tight end and defensive end for the Panthers varsity football team. With the guidance of his sister Haunani, 28, and his brother Nuuanu, 32,  both active in Amway Global, he has learned the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship. His career goals are focused on working as a business analyst in his own company after attending either the University of Minnesota or the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

On BizTech Academy:

“BizTech gave me the opportunity to take on a leadership role during team-building activities. I met a lot of great new people while learning how to build a business.”

Ana Alonso

Ana Alonso | Jefferson High School Sophomore

Ana Alonso, 15, participated in the Nanoscience Technology track during BizTech. Ana hails from four generations of entrepreneurs. A sophomore at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minn., she plays the cello, teaches swimming, volunteers at an area hospital, competes on both her school’s speech and math teams, and practices Middle Eastern dancing. Her long-term interests are centered on graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. From there, she wants to run her own business based on developing superhydrophobic nanomaterials. She is drawn to science, but really loves the idea of starting her own business in the family tradition.

On BizTech Academy:

“BizTech is totally awesome. We worked with amazing equipment in the nanoscience lab at DCTC, including atomic force and scanning electron microscopes. We also visited the clean room at the Nanofabrication Center at the University of Minnesota.”

David Roland

David Roland | Apple Valley High School Senior

David Roland, 17, attends the School of Environmental Studies, or SES, next to the Minnesota Zoo. David is a senior at his home high school—Apple Valley High School—where he is captain of the speech team. At AVHS, he is also active in choir and theater, the latter as an actor in productions such as Amadeus. He is a member of the Apple Valley Arts Foundation and serves as a consultant for ISD 196’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council. David’s career goals have aimed him toward politics and more schooling at Gustavus Adolphus. He already interns as a lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota School Boards Association. He is also involved at Uponor North America, where he is researching the oversight of executive decisions.

On BizTech Academy:

“BizTech Academy has been an absolute blast. It’s similar to SES— and I love the way we learn both there and here. The instructors have been great. They respect us as people and treat us as if we were already college graduates.”

The next wave…

Along with Associate Dean Lisa Bah, Dean Christine Pigsley was instrumental in creating and running BizTech Academy. Pigsley was delighted with the participants in the college’s new venture. “The student talent that is present in this group is more than we could have asked for,” she said. “These students not only have the creativity to launch serious businesses in the future, but also the work ethic and focus that will greatly improve their chances for business success.”

Pigsley went on to say that the next wave of educational camps like Biz Tech will continue to merge STEM education with the elements of self-determination and imagination inherent in entrepreneurship. “STEM is where job creation is now and in the future,” she said. “Whether these students pursue their own business or become ‘intrapreneurs’ within a company, their success factor is greatly increased through programs like BizTech Academy. DCTC is on the cutting edge of both STEM education and business entrepreneurship.”

BizTech Academy Gallery

To learn more about BizTech Academy, contact:
  • Christine Pigsley
    Dean of Student Affairs and General Education
  • Lisa Bah
    Associate Dean of Business and Management
To learn more about the Business Entrepreneur program at DCTC, contact:
  • Bob Voss
    Business Entrepreneur Instructor
To learn more about the Nanoscience Technology program at DCTC, contact:
  • Deb Newberry
    Director of Nanoscience Technology and Nano-Link