What I thought would a distraction from my university studies and thus a waste of time, actually turned out to be an excellent formation opportunity and a huge eye opener.
This edition of STEC (Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Camp) was mostly directed at high school students in Perez Zeledón whom are looking for their first entrepreneurship experience. With me being a university student in Cartago and already having some entrepreneurial experience from the past Startup Weekend, I thought it probably wouldn’t be the most profitable opportunity formation-wise. But I applied anyway because hey, I might actually learn something and to be honest, I got a scholarship thanks to my friend Fabian. And boy did I learn, but not in the way I expected.
The camp started with the bus ride to UCR’s agrifood farm in Ochomogo which would be our home for two days before moving to Perez for the final presentations. The farm had many classrooms where we spent most of our time developing our business ideas with the help of mentors and also received short keynotes from invited speakers.
The first day started with each student introducing themselves along with a short, funny story about themselves. Afterwards, we received several keynotes from successful entrepreneurs whom shared their experience and hardships in their journey to get where they are today. Afterwards, we got down to business and the twenty of us were split into several teams where each team started developing the first steps into building a business ideas. At the end of the day we each performed individual elevator pitches about a random business idea our mentors gave to us as practice. My elevator pitch was about “Flavored Orthodontics” and it wasn’t that bad! My public speaking skills and preparation have definitely improved from the last time I spoke in front of an audience.
The second day was aimed at honing down our business model. We received mentoring on intellectual property and lean business model canvases to be implemented in our business ideas. In the evening we prepared out PowerPoint presentations and defined each of the group members roles. Preparation went on until 2:00 am when each group performed a first-run practice of our final presentations and recieved more feedback from the mentors.
The bus that took us to Perez left at 9:30am right after a delicious breakfast. During the three hour journey we practiced our presentations as groups. Once at our final destination at UNA’s Brunca division, we presented our pitches for last minute feedback. A couple of hours later, after a lot of stress and nervousness of the other students, we pitched our business ideas in front of a panel of judges. Each group performed amazingly… but ultimately my team won. Our business idea was titled Life Security, a device that would prevent infants from suffering overheating or death if they are forgotten inside a hot vehicle. It would be implemented into car seats and notify the parent if the vehicle is getting too hot and set up an invisible perimeter around the vehicle from which the parent would be notified if they move out of it.
The students who live in Perez stayed behind while those who live in the central valley returned to whence they came. We said our goodbyes and wished all good luck in the future.
This humbling experience led me to see that today’s youths are more capable than I previously thought (I feel old when I say this). They have many more opportunities available to them that I never had while I was in high school. I was definitely surprised with their spirit and willingness to go beyond the expected image of a common high school teen. In many of them I see a bright future.
The knowledge I gained from this event wasn’t what I expected. Sure, my speaking skills improved, but that will always come with practice. This camp led me into my first steps into being a mentor. During the whole process I was transmitting to these students the experience I had gained from previous and similar events. And I had so much fun doing so. I really wish these guys the best and hope to see them become something great in the future.