Earthrise Space Foundation: Technical Entrepreneurship Program
Recently HBO aired the first season of a program called “Silicon Valley”, which focuses on a group of tech minded individuals founding a start-up company in the hub of innovation. This mainstream exposure into the world of technical entrepreneurship is a huge step into the right direction. The show gives an inside look into the struggle of running your own company based on your own idea with the guidance of business minded individuals. We find this exposure to the current innovation climate to be so important because of our newest project which is working to improve the education of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students in our community in the area of technical entrepreneurship.
Within STEM education itself, only 16% of high school seniors showed an interest in pursuing a STEM major. Collectively the U.S. is ranked at 48th in the quality of math and science education by the World Economic Forum. Moving into college, 38% of students who start with a STEM major do not graduate with one. Finally, for STEM occupations, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by 1.9 to one.
These statistics show a wide spread of the problems in our community of students and young professionals pursuing a STEM career. Earthrise Space Foundation (ESF) has been working to assist in these problems by retaining students in their majors by giving them a hands-on environment to apply their knowledge from their classes into spacecraft and spacecraft systems. Now, we are working to escalate these efforts to the next level.
The community of STEM professionals is diverse in the sense of the way our people think. As a high school student considering a career in electrical engineering, my uncle once told me “you will never be bored in your major because you can apply your degree to anything you can imagine.” He was also very encouraging because I’m a female, but that’s a whole other blog post for that kind of diversity. The point is that the STEM community has a pool of candidates capable of innovative thinking and we at ESF want to start to harness that. Our idea is being executed through our new technical entrepreneurship program.
The idea for this program has always been a part of the ESF internships in the past. Our founder, Ruben Nunez, started ESF in his sophomore year at college. Throughout the years of interns who have worked for ESF, he has worked to support them in any ventures outside of their STEM education. This new program has brought in a class of interns where they focus on the business proceedings of ESF (funding, networking and management) in addition to participating in the technical projects and developments.
I recently read a research paper talking about how many of the current generation of students are traveling away from the guided path of joining a large corporation. After seeing so many lay-offs during the recession, young professionals are less likely to believe that a corporation has an established job security and so many of them are more likely to take advantage of their self-starting skills. 
We are working to support this trend by providing students in our community with an environment where they are free to pursue their own path as well as encourage them to explore their curiosity through hands-on activities. The aim is to encourage our students to define their own job description in order to provide support to any interests in addition to the technical business projects they will already be involved in.
Course curriculums for STEM programs in our area of Central Florida currently do not support the growing market for technology based entrepreneurs. Our vision for the future of STEM is to usher in a new generation of young professionals capable of pursuing their career goals on their own terms while pushing the envelope in developing innovative technologies. We hope to achieve this goal by applying our interns to hands on experiences in running a business, acquiring funding and how to act as a manager. The program will act like a platform for the students to gain more experience in taking risks and thinking outside the box in hopes that the experience will assist them down the road if they choose to start their own company.
In order to support this program, we have partnered with both the Central Florida STEM Education Council (CFSEC) and the UCF Business Incubator.
We are housed within the UCF Business Incubator and want to use our relationship with our surrounding firms to provide hands-on experience through the technical entrepreneurship program within its facilities. This provides interns with the opportunity to network with professionals in the area and attend various business development events hosted within. These events cover topics essential to the improvement of a business acumen such as “How to Create an Environment Where Your Employees Want to Work” or “12 Mistakes That Cost You Money”.
The second source of guidance comes from the CFSEC. This is a council populated with STEM industry leaders with the intention of giving back to their community and support the next generation of innovators. The CFSEC has plans to take an integral role in the development of students in the Central Florida area through a system they are developing to capture stories of different students work experiences, to connect them with mentors in their ideal fields and expose them to available opportunities in the area. This will allow students to interact with industry leaders via panels or speaker meetings. CFSEC is populated with leaders who have experience they wish to share with the surrounding community to support young professionals grow into future leaders and innovators.
In the long run, ESF and its partners want to accomplish the following with the entrepreneurial education program:
- Partner with entrepreneurs in the Orlando area to encourage a new class of technical professionals interested in business ventures.
- Teach students how to clearly define their technological objectives in order to develop a product that can go to market.
- Engage students and young professionals in performing all work necessary to make the technical entrepreneurship program self-sustainable in order to provide them with critical experience and to further the company’s exempt purposes.
- Integrate an accountability system that captures the journey and success stories of the students’ experiences in order to inspire the next generation of aspiring STEM scholars.
 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership. (2014). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov/stem
 The STEM Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Math & Science Initiative: https://www.nms.org/AboutNMSI/TheSTEMCrisis.aspx
 STEM Education Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Math & Science Initiative: https://www.nms.org/AboutNMSI/TheSTEMCrisis/STEMEducationStatistics.aspx
 STEM Education Coalition Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved from STEM Education Coalition: http://www.stemedcoalition.org/reports/
 Foundation, E. M. (2013). Entrepreneurship Education Comes of Age on Campus. Retrieved from http://www.kauffman.org/what-we-do/research/2013/08/entrepreneurship-edu...