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Pilot program at Nava Prep: robotics, drones and entrepreneurship

Mike Szymanski | September 21, 2015

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Marcus Shingles and the new entrepreneurs at Nava Prep College.

About 50 high school students now spend one class a day learning state-of-the-art technology in robotics, drones, 3D printing, bitcoin, artificial intelligence and bio tech, along with cutting-edge practices in venture capitalism, crowd-source funding and other business practices.

It’s all part of a first-year pilot program at Nava College Preparatory Academy in South Central that officials say can be replicated in schools throughout LAUSD.

“We will be giving the students the hands-on tools to succeed like the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley,” said Marcus Shingles, of Deloitte Consulting Innovation in Los Angeles. “There is nothing like this anywhere else in the country.”

In his consulting, Shingles meets regularly with high-powered business people to let them know about the latest technologies. He wondered if anything like that was being taught in the schools. He met with Nava’s former principal, Tommy Welch, and the former local superintendent, Tommy Chang. (Both were later recruited away by the Boston school district.)

About 10 volunteers from Deloitte spent nights and weekends over the past year forming a curriculum and supplemental material for four years of entrepreneurial training. The first course, “Entrepreneurs as Researchers,” introduces students to several disruptive innovations, such as drone technology, 3D printing and marketing and business plans.

In year two, the students will learn about crowd sourcing, venture capitalism and crowd funding. In the third year, students will launch a prototype business, and by their senior year, they will have the tools to go to college or run their own self-sufficient business.

No LAUSD money is used in the program for Shingles and his company working with Nava teachers.

“If one child launches their own business and becomes an entrepreneur then the whole school will be a model,” Shingles said. “We show them the success stories, and how people became successful, and how they can come from any neighborhood.”

This is the first year of the high school, which was started by local parents in South-Central as a middle school on the campus of Jefferson High.

The students took preparatory training classes over the summer to learn team building and prepare for the new course, which is considered an elective class that concentrates on the advanced business education.

“These new fields are exponential trends, not linear,” said Shingles, the father of a son who just started college and a daughter who just graduated. “The young people know that these things are real and here now.”

He said he has seen a spark in the students and in the two teachers who are part of the training. “They are having fun learning this stuff and seem to be having a great time,” he said. “I love working with the kids and watching them get excited about learning.”

The students often hear from guest speakers.

“We show that entrepreneurs have to not be afraid to fail,” said Shingles, who comes from a family of educators — both of his parents and his brother teach. “Kids today are too afraid of failing.”

Shingles and the school will evaluate how the courses work and how the students perform, then bring the results to the school board for review.

“I think that this has a great chance for a broader picture for LAUSD,” Shingles said.


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