Companies are also contributing to the advancement of student’s STEM involvement. Marshall University for instance, teamed up with Intuit. Though Intuit is not necessarily a STEM product itself, their company values and beliefs do intertwine. Intuit is known for being a purpose driven company. Before diving deep into their relation to the STEM world, giving a brief description of the company may be helpful. If you have ever dealt with managing your finances, you have probably heard of TurboTax, Quickbooks, or Mint. Each used for a different financial purpose, Intuit likes to see itself as an entrepreneurs’ true companion. CEO, Brad Smith states, “Our 8,000 employees are innovators and entrepreneurs that are inspired by the important work they do that is delighting customers and improving the financial lives of millions of people.” What struck me was that though working under the company, Intuit’s employees are innovative thinkers inside and outside of the office. Not only do they believe in their employees, but many around the world. In this instance, innovative students were put on the pedestal.

The teaming up between one of West Virginia’s top selected schools for academics, Marshall University, and Intuit led to be much success in challenging college students on campus through a new way of thinking. The project, Design-for-Delight featured multiple teams to develop a product that would resolve an epidemic or sought out problem. At the D4D Bootcamp, students were conformed into 7 different groups to pre-set a “grand challenge” and thus develop a potential solution. Through the independent experimental trial, students were given the opportunity to better understand, develop, design, and evaluate their problem-solving product.

Though this is primary business related, the connection between STEM and business is very apparent. Between developing and discussing, the process of thinking is adapted and constructed differently. The Design for Delight challenged even business majors to think in unusual ways and to veer into what is typically taught in STEM related courses. Intuit’s tie in was the required system of thinking needed to properly produce a problem-solving product. In the real world, traditional learning has limited possible growth for not only a person/student but a business. The purpose of this event was to have students tap into design thinking. In the traditional learning pathway, there is flawless planning, avoidance of failure, periodically tested, and a lot of thinking. In contrast, by implying design thinking, trial and error is encouraged, failure arises quickly, tested continuously, and instead of thinking there is doing.

This company strategically combined community involvement, student interaction, innovative thinking, and a real-world challenge-solution set up. Instead of doing mock business plans, endless research on a given topic, or working on an unfocused project, students were able to tap into a different dimension of learning and implication. In previous discussions, we had tapped into how and why hands-on learning is important, and it is because, the real world doesn’t learn traditionally, but it learns innovatively. Business owners, scientists, and even educators take risks, and face failures every day, but it is not a failure if you find a solution, it is only a success.

What I found to be so admirable about Intuit’s CEO, Brad Smith, was his love for Marshall and the endless support he has spilled into the state of West Virginia. Interesting fact, Brad Smith is an alumni from Marshall University and yet even across the country in California, still finds way to get student’s in all fields involved. This offered students the ability to help the community in a whole but providing different techniques and products that Huntington and West Virginia faced as a whole. Primarily the focuses were constructed to be the drug epidemic, early childhood education, and implementing STEM early on into education. This alone shows the strive it has for students in finding solutions to improve STEM education in the state. As a result, one team came up with a subscription “STEM box”, which included different games and toys that were thought provoking. How were the toys selected you may ask? There were multiple tests throughout the entire process. From there, they assessed and jotted down what items were attractive to a young kid and looked to see which item was picked up first and how long the item was handled. Not only were all the ideas unique and innovative, but the names didn’t fall far behind. The product name “Appalachian Action” topped the cake with their unique title.

I believe a change in the system, also means support from outside corporations. Multiple companies and entrepreneurs see the lack of focus on STEM and are working to find ways to integrate it more so into their platforms and company values. With wanted change on the top of everyone’s mind, many new companies are paving the way. Designed by a team of young entrepreneurs, Matific is a new application hot on the market. They understood that yes, kids love playing games and there is a way to integrate both an educational lesson and interactive games. Matific’s platform is to provide interactive, engaging modular units. With hundreds of worksheets and activities available, this app is sure to draw the attention of many parents or a younger generation. Matific is obviously not the only company designing and creating applications that integrate STEM, but my main point is they are one of many finding new ways to make STEM more attractable. If younger kids see it as more frequently, the topics will soon be seen as a norm, instead of a foreign topic.


-Stephanie Rogner