What’s it take to ‘Make It REAL’?

Recent high school grads find out during workshop with KC’s entrepreneurial community

After spending their senior year of high school wrestling with a real-world problem and then designing and testing solutions, more than 20 recent graduates came together for a workshop to explore how they might bring their promising senior capstone projects to life.

During the May 31 Make It REAL workshop at the KC STEM Alliance, students spent the day learning about the entrepreneurial mindset, the Lean Startup Method and the patent process. But for most, the highlight of the day was the Shark Tank-like moment when they pitched their project ideas to a small group of fellow students and mentors from the startup community.

Student showing mentors project via laptop

Sam Hubert and Peter Nguyen (standing at back) share their Exo-walker prototype with mentors from the biomedical field.


Each team had a total of 20 to 30 minutes to share their projects before a panel of peers and three to four mentors. Q&A sessions after each presentation helped identify next steps and brainstorm ideas for getting around barriers.

Student showing project to two mentors

Evan Nelson explains the design concepts of his Inflatable Pants project with mentors Sarah Shipley and Paul Francis.


Students also heard from Make It REAL workshop alumni who actually took their ideas to the marketplace, including current University of Missouri-Kansas City student Dylan Smith and Shawnee Mission West graduate Erin Smith, who is working to launch her FacePrint technology for early detection of Parkinson’s Disease.

Female student with project board

Emily Kilventon of Van Horn High School shared her work to develop bioinformatic sleeves for early detection and diagnosis of Rheumatic diseases.


The Make It REAL Workshop is organized by the KC Startup Foundation with support from the KC STEM Alliance and KC SourceLink. The workshop was created in response to volume of innovation and marketable product ideas emerging through high school competitions, including the Project Lead The Way Senior Showcase.

Female student uses laptop to share project with two mentors

Aniston Cumbie explains her team’s system for improving airplane lavatory efficiency to the mentor panel.


Students who received Innovation Awards in that competition or place in the top 10 of the Engineering Design or Biomedical Research Design competitions receive automatic invitations to the workshop. Top award winners from the Greater KC Science & Engineering Fair and BioGENEius competitions also receive invitations.