Make It REAL Scholarship Winners

Head shots of two male students, one femaleCongratulations to these three recent high school graduates who each received a $500 inaugural Make It REAL scholarship from the KC STEM Alliance.

Several years ago, KC STEM Alliance and STARTLAND teamed up to introduce high school seniors working on innovative capstone projects in engineering and biomedical sciences to the world of entrepreneurship through an end-of-the-year workshop. The invitation-only workshop gave students with promising projects introductions to mentors in the startup space, practice at pitching their concepts and practical tools and next steps for moving forward.

Like so many other things in 2020, Covid-19 disrupted the process this year. But a quick pivot to an online format made it possible for all interested students to participate and made the new scholarships possible. Each student shared thoughts about what they’ve learned through the process.

The recipients include:

Ethan Inman, Harrisonville High School/Summit Technology Academy

Ethan Inman, who graduated from Harrisonville High School and completed his Engineering Design and Development capstone at Summit Technology Academy, says the capstone project culminated all his previous experiences into a grand exercise of creativity, dedication and technical skill.

“Getting feedback from industry professionals and our teachers helped to validate our ideas and give us confidence. With this confidence, I was able to take up a passion for my project. Not only did my team have the hope to make our idea a functional product, we now had the means and the backing to do so. … I’m always chasing the passion I have for shaping and innovating the world around me.“

His advice to incoming seniors? Get involved.

“Whether it be through a job or internship, school projects, or community service, putting yourself into new situations gets you in touch with new challenges to overcome and thus continues to develop your critical thinking skills, technical skills, and interpersonal skills.”

Andrew Frazier, Ruskin High School

Andrew, whose project involved improving the safety of e-cigarettes, says the Make It REAL series empowered him to embrace the power of failure as an essential part of learning and helped him better evaluate when to push forward and when to pause.

His advice to incoming seniors?

“I would teach them to work with their strengths, focus on something that is important to you, and to persevere and take advantage of every obstacle and failure.”

Kay Lee, The Daniel School/Summit Technology Academy

Kay Lee says her capstone project was one of the most enjoyable experiences in her academic career: “The research was interesting, the work was fun, even the failure (in hindsight) was exciting. Each failure proposed a new problem – a new challenge – with a new solution waiting to be found … I was able to get a small taste of what real science looks like, and I absolutely loved it.

She especially appreciates the role her mentors played in the process:

“Our teacher could not have been more supportive, and we had three mentors from the Kansas University Medical Center that were helpful in more ways than I can write about. … Through this whole roller coaster of a process, I learned when to solve problems on my own and when to reach out for help from professionals. The help we received was invaluable, and I have learned to both seek and appreciate the advice and input of experts in the field.”

Her advice for incoming seniors?

“As a senior looking into schools and thinking about the very near future, tenaciously look for ways to make yourself an interesting, well-rounded person. Feed your hunger and desire to learn. It matters more than you think.“

You can watch the entire 2020 Make It REAL series here.