Toss what you think you know about summer camp out the window. A new kind of program is in town - and it goes way beyond the archery lessons and sing-a-longs around the campfire typically associated with camp.
This summer marks the first here in Boston for epiic solutions, a new kind of day camp that exposes high schoolers to entrepreneurship and innovation. The program is broken up into “experiences”: one-week intensives focused on topics like women in entrepreneurship, environmental and clean tech, the arts and innovation, and more. For college-bound students, there’s also a college exploration track, which gets them on-site and face-to-face with local institutions’ entrepreneurship programs and the people participating in them.
“The vision is to disrupt the kinds of experiences students having,” explains Blake Sims, Founder and CEO of epiic solutions. “I built [this program] to empower students to be creative problem solvers.
“That’s where entrepreneurs and innovators do best, and I think that approach is applicable across sectors,” she added. “The innovation economy and jobs of the future will require a creative problem solving ability.”
EXPOSING KIDS TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Regardless of the experience track a student participates in, each day is broken out much the same. Students identify the problem they’re looking to solve, and spend the week working to create a business plan around it. Every morning has its own focus, like identifying the customer or building and testing prototypes. In the afternoon, students take “field trips” to local startups and meet with the entrepreneurs behind them. The program week wraps with a pitch-off to locals from the Boston tech and startup community and their families.
“The goal is to spark students’ curiosity and interest,” says Sims. “It’s not meant to be an accelerator. It’s more focused on exposure,… and opening their eyes up to the variety of roles that exist at companies, as well as building their network and talking about how to grow that.”
An experienced teacher, Sims taught middle school for five years, two of which where in Chicago. The other three years she spent at the International School of Kenya in Nairobi. She left Kenya to pursue a masters’ degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she says she “fell in love” with learning and teaching about innovation, entrepreneurship, and 21st century skills.
Epiic solutions, Sims’ second education startup, was born out of a formative experience she had in high school. She took a combined course that focused on community service, English, and history. It got students out into the community to learn about local history and authors, and complete community service. It also gave Sims a block of time at the end of each day to create a program that would help her explore her own career path.
“I felt like I had this freedom and was entrusted with this responsibility that I didn’t have in any other class,” Sims says “Just being able to explore those interest areas and being treated like an adult helped me make more informed decisions when I was thinking about college.
“I wish more students had [those kind of opportunities] in their schools,” she added. “Those are the kinds of experiences I think you grow and learn from.”
The first epiic solutions experience, Fempreneur, kicks off July 11. Consecutive experiences run through mid-August. Sims is still accepting program applications from interested high school students. She’s also looking to partner with more area startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators to broaden students’ exposure.
“I wanted to provide an authentic opportunity for kids to feel empowered as problem solvers and change agents,” she says. “Living here in Boston, I see so many creative, innovative people and amazing ideas out there. It frustrates me that schools are so siloed and not part of that community.
“Kids in our schools would benefit so much from more engagement with the startup community here in Boston.”
Interested in helping expose high schoolers to entrepreneurship and innovation? Know a student who’d like to participate in epiic solutions this summer? Visit epiicsolutions.org
Images via Blake Sims