DUMBO Founders Inspire Big Ideas at PS 307

This spring, 6 DUMBO entrepreneurs volunteered for the first ever Big Idea Week at PS307 - a program designed to teach 5th graders about entrepreneurship, innovation and inspire them to think about the start up world as a career path. The program is the brainchild of Flocabulary co-founder Alex Rappaport, and was commissioned by the DUMBO Improvement District, through a grant from the NYC Small Business Services' 2012 BID Challenge.

Big Idea Week brought the local tech and media entrepreneurs to PS 307 in Vinegar Hill, to work with students to inspire through an "inspiration exchange" between students and local entrepreneurs while also building a bridge between a community of innovators and a community of learners. Rappaport worked to enable DUMBO's amazingly creative companies to share their talents & stories with local elementary students (the inaugural mentors included Marco Perry from Pensa, Jonathan Cedar from Biolite, Tina Eisenberg from TattlySwissmiss, Brian Lemond from Brooklyn Digital Foundry and Tanya Menendez and Matt Burnett from Maker's Row).

This year's event was a pilot and Flocabulary intends to replicate it at PS 307 and beyond in the coming year. The project is the latest example of the DUMBO Improvement District's efforts to use DUMBO as a test kitchen, giving local start ups a chance to test their new products for the benefit of the community. It is also a great example of how companies within the Brooklyn Tech Triangle can work with students to inspire them to pursue these career paths - creating the Tech Eco-System called for in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle Strategic Plan.

The goals of Big Idea Week are:

  • To inspire students be be curious, creative and courageous about their ideas.
  • To expose them to real-world applications for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and show them new verticals of achievement and success.
  • To leave a lasting impression on school culture by flipping the idea of a typical "career day" on its head.

The inaugural Big Idea Week started with an assembly at PS 307 on Monday, May 13th where the DUMBO entrepreneurs shared their inspirations and the ideas that lead them to start their businesses. This was followed up by a short Q&A with the students in their classroom (see the photo above as Marco, Tanya and Matt entertain questions).

For the rest of the week, students and teachers immersed themselves into Flocabulary's curated curriculum based around coming up with their "Big Idea" and then pitched these at "pitch day" on Friday May 17th. This year, the students' truly inspired Big Ideas ranged from homework robots to allergy-proof puppies to retractable high heels (including a cardboard prototype!).

Earlier this month, the students spent the morning checking out the DUMBO offices of Biolite and Pensa to see where the real big ideas are turned into reality.

PS 307 Principal Roberta Davenport has been an amazing partner and a huge supporter of the program: “The question we ask is how do we expand, deepen and enrich the lives of these children. Big Idea Week enables them to look at the world through new eyes. It gives them a sense of empowerment to make this world a better place.”

Big Idea week founder Alex Rappaport is very hopeful for the program's continued success: "We were lucky to have the support of such an innovative business community and access to a school that challenges its students to think big. Exciting things happen when you bring members of a community together, and it's my hope that this exchange of ideas has a lasting impact on the students as well as the entrepreneurs."

The program is now available for other schools in New York City. For more information or to bring Big Idea Week to your school, check out their website or email them at bigideaweek at gmail dot com.

More photos from this year's Big Idea Week:


Mentioned in this article

Pensa Flocabulary Brooklyn Digital Foundry BioLite