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Social Innovation and Technology (SIT) Lab, Arlington, Virginia

Social Innovation and Technology  (SIT) Lab, Arlington, Virginia

Youth Business Initiative

Program Summary

The SIT Lab is intended to improve the technical education and awareness, digital fluency and innovative spirit of traditionally underserved and economically disadvantaged youth. During the lab, young people will identify social problem they are passionate about and design solutions using technology and innovation. SIT is designed by young professionals with a commitment to social good. We share the very backgrounds and come from the same communities as the youth we wish to serve.

Our SIT Lab is divided into five modules: (1) application development basics, (2) idea generation, (3) research and solution design, (4) screening and scoping, and (5) product development. The Lab will conclude with our APPtitude for Change Hackathon where each team will be paired with a developer to help them create finalize their solution designs. The teams will then give a presentation to industry experts and compete for prizes.

In addition, our participants will get an opportunity to share their opinions about how we can make STEM programs more inclusive, diverse, innovative and collaborative through a survey and focus group study. One proposed way to do this is to build an online resource portal connecting STEM programs in the area. The goal is to be able to continue to work with many of the participants during the school year on this effort. The final design could allow students to upload and share design ideas and programming tips and teachers and facilitators to share curriculum, resources, and project ideas.
Youth will improve their digital fluency and entrepreneurial skills and most importantly learn how to use their developed skills to make a social impact today.

‘Entrepreneurial skills’ are taken here to encompass the following skills: teamwork and collaboration, team communication, market research, making presentations, problem solving, idea generation, project management, working with adults.


Location: George Mason University, Arlington Campus

We surveyed our participants and these are the three problems that got the most votes for our upcoming SIT program.
Problem 1: How can we create an application to help reduce the occurrences of bullying on social media?
Problem 2: How do we build an app that lets young people find and review STEM programs and mobile and web based applications. How do can we use technology to encourage wider participation?
Problem 3: How can we prevent texting while driving?

Module 1 – A crash course in app development

Students learn about the mobile app design process, what apps can and can’t do, and basic programming (HTML, Javascript and CSS). Through case studies students explore what makes a successful 'app for good', why apps can fail, and why this doesn't matter. Students tap into their first expert session for inspiration and insight on the app development process.

Module 2 – Idea generation

In teams and using up to five methods, students generate an extensive list of as many app ideas as they can. These ideas are grouped and prioritized, then teams are asked to write elevator pitches for their favorite ideas and maintain a list of back up ideas.

Module 3 – Screening and scoping

In this module teams reduce their ideas list to three options. Teams use market research, user personas and minimum viable product activities to scope out their three ideas. The ideas are reviewed by their peers and within an expert session to help student teams select the best idea to progress. This module is the most iterative part of the course, with students pivoting and preserving their ideas based on the results of their technical and market scoping.

Module 4 – Product development

Depending on the complexity of their idea, student teams build and test at least one feature of their app. Students learn about user experience design in greater depth and are encouraged to involve experts for feedback. After reviewing a range of case study examples, teams determine appropriate business models for their app and prepare a business case for why this model has been chosen. Students have an expert session on pitching and public speaking.

Module 5 – Pitch and competition
In the final module, teams prepare a pitch for the Apptitude for Change Hackathon competition.

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