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The State of Rockettech - April 2015

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Rockettech has been an entrepreneurial tech club for nearly two years now. By the last day of school, we will have grossed over $12,000, and we’ve already reinvested $8,000 back into the club for further growth. I’d like to summarize the last two years, and share my vision for the next two years.
 
I can’t emphasize enough that our founding was rooted in the complete expectation that we would fail, and that was ok. It was a challenge I made to a group of 5 students to prove they can hack it in the real world (pun intended). It was a challenge to myself to see if I could present professional concepts and protocols in a way that sustained high levels of effort and energy from students...and ultimately lead them to create work that would pass as professional. Once we established that grades were moot, and every day is instead about winning over real clients, momentum surged. Authenticity wins on all fronts.
 
The past 2 years, the students and I have worked very hard to create a productive and positive work environment, where “employees” feel safe to take risks. They then asked better questions, and WANTED to do a good job for the team and for themselves. Simon Sinek describes this phenomenon in his “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” Ted Talk. It has been this safe-from-ridicule environment that allowed us to feed off of each others’ energy and ideas. Expectations of individual performance and professionalism were set high, and students quickly adjusted to them.
 

Notable Projects the last 2 years

  • Code for Cash
    • Students completed Computer Programming lessons on CodeCademy.com to get DonorsChoose.org certificates that they applied to earn Rockettech a DJI Phantom 2 Plus Quadcopter (Our aerial video setup)
  • Putnam County Courthouse 150th Year Anniversary Documentary DVD
    • On site filming, Ken Burns-style picture narration
  • STNA Certification Skills DVD - Diversified Technologies
    • 3 On-site film sessions of 26 skills (i.e. transferring patient from bed to wheelchair)
  • Ohio Northern University - Biology Department Website
    • Destination for current and future students in 6 different majors. Includes drone flyover.
  • Ohio Northern University - Football Team Recruiting footage
    • drone flyovers on campus
Mid Ohio Energy, many years of
great projects with them!
 
  • Habitat for Humanity of Putnam County - Video
    • Video story of the parallel between developing Putnam County Habitat for Humanity and Jodi Young, the owner of the 2014 home build.
  • Mid Ohio Energy Co-Op - Year in Review Videos
    • Presented at their annual co-op meeting regarding initiatives and progress of the year like this one.
  • Putnam County Community Improvement Corporation
  • Allen County Economic Development Group
    • Industrial Development Sites Drone flyovers video
  • Pandora-Gilboa School District Promotional Video
  • Mock Crash
    • Organized by Rockettech
    • 1st Mock Crash at Pandora-Gilboa in decades.
As our club continues to evolve, I think it’s important to share what we’ve learned with other schools, administrators, and policy makers in hopes that more students will ultimately benefit from our endeavors. Below are the presentations that members and I have given.
 

Presentations last 2 years on Rockettech

Presenting at BASA  to "the big dogs"
 

 

Rap battle on a keynote stage at OETC...
just another day in Rockettech.

From these ventures, our members have earned experience, respect, and a few ego bumps and bruises. Our club has earned enough money to reinvest back into itself in many ways.

 
Interviews on NBC Lima of Rockettech members

We have purchased 30 second advertising spots on NBC Lima, and online ads with The Bluffton Icon. We’ve purchased software to improve our efficiency and capabilities. We’ve funded a Kickstarter campaign to improve our tech lab’s decor. We’ve funded the travel to conferences and ate at fine restaurants. Our few splurges on food were simply a follow through of the latter part of the formula,  “Work Hard, Play Hard”. The students and I work extremely hard both in class and evenings to meet the demands of business clients that don’t fit the neat model of a 50 minute class period.
No, the Rockettech model of school is more like a startup business in the tech sector. We welcome the “I have no idea what I’m doing” mentality as long as it’s accompanied by a “But I’m willing to try.” one. The experience is intended to expose weaknesses and strengths through real-world interactions with businesses, to help students create their own identities. The least important thing the students learn is how to make a website, or how to color correct a video clip. The most important is what they learn about themselves as they relate to the rest of the world. Can they communicate complex ideas? How do they present themselves in a professional light? How does “networking” even happen? Other school districts right here in Ohio like Hilliard’s McVey Innovative Learning Center have already discovered and structured more personalized school experiences, and they know why. Rockettech is my way of adapting education in the same way. There are far better ways to prepare students for life.
 
Mock Crash in April 2015
 
Our entrepreneurial mindset does not simply mean we are looking for ways to make money. True entrepreneurs look for existing opportunities to expand, but also have the ability to CREATE their own opportunities through networking and finding needs not being met.  Dr. Yong Zhao of University of Oregon told us in a Skype call recently that pursuing new initiatives should not be dictated by the director, but be initiated by the students, and supported by the director. The Mock Crash has been completely student lead with only minimal assistance from staff members.
 
We have pursued initiatives such as winning the Putnam County Video Contest and Shirley’s Popcorn Video Contest, helped launch and mentor the PG Engineering Club directed by the venerable Mrs. Jessica Klass. And for the first time ever, Rockettech will be offering a $1000 scholarship to a graduating senior based on character, professionalism, creating opportunities, and value to the club. This award is not based on who made the most money or holds an officer title.
Mrs. Klass and the PG Engineering Club Laser engraved coasters
by PG Engineering


~~~~~~~

Future:

The future of Rockettech is bright. Through a meeting of the member’s minds, we’ve established a holistic vision that develops students into tomorrow’s leaders, and provides opportunities for the club to grow on multiple fronts.
 
First, we will increase communications with current and past members through the use of an email newsletter (subscribe on Rockettech.org), blog posts on rockettech.org, and Twitter updates on @pg_rockettech.
 
Second, Our members and I will be serving on leadership boards and consulting on more projects. Students will help guide the direction of MakerFest 2015 in Lima, OH, a competition among the regions high schools, community colleges, and professionals in STEM centered events. We will help guide the direction of the 2016 Ohio Education Technology Conference as they seek to get more students involved.
Third, Rockettech will be presenting and publishing work that details how Rockettech functions in a public school setting, in hopes that other districts, administrators, and teachers can implement their own entrepreneurial clubs. This model can be applied to fields like design, engineering, marketing, or any scenario where students come up with a product or service that they develop into a profitable venture. See Yong Zhao’s “Creating World Class Learners” Chapter 8, Product Oriented Learning.
 
And finally, we expect to profit $20,000 over the next 2 years. We will achieve this through more efficient project management, higher profile clients, and continuing to raise the bar on what is possible in a small school club.
 

Closing Remarks

 
The past 2 years, amidst the public successes, struggles and tensions have  presented themselves. I view these through the lens that when something new, something different, is created that doesn’t fit an existing model, there will be resistance. It requires students, myself, and administrators to consider how this new “thing” fits into existing schemas, and whether adjustments must be made or not. It is very satisfying to know that the struggle has benefactors in the students and community. It gives me energy and motivation to bring up the next crop of tomorrow's leaders.
 
Original author: Mr. Suter
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Guest Friday, 28 April 2017

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We are a high school tech club providing web design and video production in Pandora, OH.

We thrive on "donations" that are earned through professional quality work. Our entrepreneurial spirit drives our activities during class times, not tests.

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