By Ted A. Baker, CEO/Executive Director—
MUNCIE, IN—Over the past two years, I have written several articles about the scope of services and activities at the Innovation Connector. From leasing office space to entrepreneurs, coaching and advising business owners and entrepreneurs, hosting workshops and events, and providing opportunities for networking and coworking, the Innovation Connector has served the Muncie community well. We know that students are encouraged to learn foreign languages as part of their school work, such as Spanish or French. Knowing a foreign language can empower a person in their career and future education. However, there is another language that students must learn to prepare for their futures. In 2017, the Innovation Connector launched an initiative focused on students in grades K -12 – the Coding Connector. While we work daily to empower technology-driven entrepreneurs, our team thought it was important to begin this training as early as elementary school. Our main focus was to partner with local schools and organizations to support their efforts in technology education.
Early in 2017, I met two tech entrepreneurs, Ryan Hunter and Brandon Coppernoll (their business, TechWise Academy). They had just started teaching their elementary-aged children and friends the basics of coding and computer science skills. They needed a meeting space with quality internet connections and high-speed bandwidth to do this. So, the next Saturday morning, these elementary and middle-grade students met in one of the rooms at the Innovation Connector, which has both quality internet and high-speed service. Within a few weeks, I knew Ryan and Brandon (TechWise Academy) and the Innovation Connector should partner to bring coding and computer services to many more students. The partnership discussions led us to dream bigger to provide top-level computer programming opportunities to the Muncie community and east-central Indiana.
With the assistance of grant funds from AT&T of Indiana and major grant contributions from the George and Frances Ball Foundation, the Innovation Connector purchased much-needed laptop computers, notepads, Lego robotic kits, desks, chairs, and accessories. We scheduled a few new courses for students and relayed the course information to all area schools. And so began this wonderful journey.
Since 2017, the Coding Connector-TechWise Academy partnership has served over 1,500 students through various courses. We have also secured nearly $400,000 in funding to purchase laptops, several versions of Lego Robots, drones, bots, 3-D printers, VEX Go sets, specialty gaming laptops for designing video games, desks, and tables – items needed to operate our programs successfully. Our courses are wildly popular and are usually always sold out. We have to charge for some of the courses offered because we pay course designers and instructors. However, due to the generous support from the George and Frances Ball Foundation, scholarships are offered to families who are unable to pay for a course. Our goal is never to let the inability to pay for a course keep a student from attending the course!
The Innovation Connector and TechWise Academy partnership also participates in the local Cradle to Career initiative in Muncie, led by the George and Frances Ball Foundation. Our focus is on the Middle-Grade Math part of Cradle to Career. Through the Coding Connector’s programming, we aim to make STEM activities, which include math and science, fun! The major goal of this Cradle to Career Middle-Grade Math work is to see I-Learn 8 scores increase in Muncie schools and to see more middle-grade students successfully complete high school math as preparation for some form of post-secondary education.
From June 5 – July 28, the Innovation Connector, in partnership with TechWise Academy, will host many events and summer programs. Included are:
- Summer Coding Clubs for K-2nd grade & 3rd – 5th grade
- EV3 Lego Robotic Space Adventure for grades 6th – 8th
- Tech-Spark Weekend for grades 6th – 8th
- Video Game Design Course for grades 6th – 8th
- And much more
Our team is very excited to offer these courses. We continue to plan for the summer to ensure the best materials and experiences are provided to Muncie’s youth. For more information, details, course dates and times, or to register for any courses, please visit www.innovatonconnector.com/events or www.techwiseacademy.com/classes or call 765-285-4900.
This is an exciting time at the Innovation Connector. Please visit our website, www.innovatonconnector.com, for details on our programs and events. Make sure you mark your calendars for our weeklong celebration of Entrepreneur Showcase Week – filled with business-helping resources for business owners and entrepreneurs: November 13 – 17. We have planned 18 events this year, including the return of the BIG Idea Pitch competition and new for this year, the Entrepreneur Showcase Luncheon Celebration. Additional details will be posted soon.
Empowering future entrepreneurs is critical to the long-term success of our community. With the resources of the Innovation Connector and its many partners, the Muncie area’s school-aged students can learn technology outside the classroom in a hands-on environment with other students from different schools. After all, these students are part of our future, and they are being prepared today for what might happen tomorrow.
1208 W. White River Blvd.
Muncie, IN 47303