Startup Week Tallinn: future founders want to learn outside the traditional classroom


Startup Week had for the second year in its main programme a special track for future leaders called Future Founders, targeting school kids. With the support of Estonian startup companies and local startup community, young talent had a chance to learn about tech and their future career opportunities.

A study commissioned by Wise and conducted by the University of Tartu shows that tech companies can encourage young people with their career choice. The study was completed in May 2019 and focused on both IT education and career choices. ”The results of the study show that middle school kids appreciate company visits highly – this inspires young people and gives them a clearer understanding of the everyday life in a tech company. In addition to office visits, we organise various events to show young people that IT is not just programming or repairing computers. In collaboration with Startup Week, we invited teens to our Wise office to give them a positive learning experience through a product building workshop, which hopefully will generate greater interest in the technology sector," said Alvar Lumberg, Wise Engineering Lead.

Ede Tamkivi, one of the coordinators of the Future Founders programme and founder of the young inventors Summer School Springboard found that playfulness is the best trigger for young people. Teens love the opportunity to create something themselves and to manage their own projects. “They deserve more trust and should be allowed to discover the world on their own, and nudged in the right direction with the right advice at the right time. In Springboard Summer School and through other projects, we have offered young people precisely these kind of opportunities, encouraging them to use tech to bring their ideas to life and inspiring them through experienced entrepreneurs' stories.”

In the product building workshop, participants work in groups to find solutions to a specific problem around one of these topics: waste reduction, bullying at school or helping the elderly. After choosing the category and defining the problem, participants brainstorm different solutions, and then choose one they’ll start to work with.

At the Startup Week’s workshop, after a few hours of relatively high-intensity prototyping, the teens said that working in a group is much easier than working alone because it leads to better solutions and potential obstacles are easier to overcome. Participants agreed that you always need to validate your ideas and ask for other opinions. Erik, in 9th grade, shared his experience: “When we were developing an app to assist the elderly, all the team members wrote down their ideas, even totally crazy ones, and in the end, we came to quite a genius solution. This kind of setup means you are not left alone with a challenge.” He added that if one participant saw a problem with something, someone else already had an interesting solution to it.

Anette, in 11th grade, admits that youth-oriented programmes help to open the door to the world of technology. “It is exciting to actively learn things outside your comfort zone – not just sitting in the corner and writing down what the teacher says. Currently, there is a lot of static studying in schools. New methods like covering group work and using tech solutions would definitely make learning more interesting.”

Startup Week organised a total of 13 events for kids and youth.

Startup Week is one of the world’s largest start-up community initiatives which started nine years ago in the United States of America. The festival is now organised in 90 cities across the world and for the fourth year in Estonia. This year's programme focused on future founders, generation green, tech almighty and community connections.

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