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The Era of Young Innovators: Looking Beyond Universities To Source Talents 86

New submitter billylo writes "Tech heavy industries are constantly looking for new sources of innovations. But where are the best place to find them? Increasingly, businesses are looking beyond universities and source ideas from savvy high schoolers. Cases in point: High school programming team finished in the Top 5 of MasterCard's NXT API challenge (3rd one down the list) last weekend in Toronto; Waterloo's Computing Contest high-school level winners [PDF] tackled complex problems like these [PDF]; the FIRST robotics competition requires design, CAD, manufacturing and programming all done by high schoolers. Do you have other good examples on how to encourage high schoolers to become young innovators? Do you have any other successful examples?"
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The Era of Young Innovators: Looking Beyond Universities To Source Talents

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    it's not because high-schoolers are naive and cheap, no no no, it's because of "innovation"! Innovation for all! But keep ther 19th century social model though; innovation not wanted there.
    • Re:of course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @01:55AM (#45049161) Homepage

      Innovation is one thing, it's a completely different thing to create business from it. We are missing out a lot of good innovations because the ideas get stifled or the innovator gets pushed down because the investors thinks that it's a bad idea. (The idea may be bad for their business, so therefore they don't promote it)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        yet we're getting plenty of shit ideas due to VCs doing a pump and dump

    • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:21AM (#45049247) Journal

      But keep ther 19th century social model though; innovation not wanted there.

      you almost have it...19th Century *Business* model.

      you're absolutely right the industry doesn't know what 'innovation' is b/c many tech leaders (broadly) got to be in that position not by 'innovation' but by sheer luck, stealing other's work, or by being a lackey.

      M$'s government contract aided ascendence is the perfect example. They scaled up from the garage b/c Gates & Co. were willing to do w/e IBM wanted. IBM, of course, had just gotten a huge government to put PC's on every government desk.

      Who needs to do R&D and 'innovate' when the government guarantees your company a revenue stream and captive market???

      The industry is killing itself from hype...it's like a human eating only SweetTarts candy everyday...it'll kill you eventually

      • Oh give me a break! Yes Microsoft stole everything! Want to know what Microsoft did as innovation? They made it possible to print from any app. Sounds trivial, but Microsoft perfected the driver model. Until Windows 3 the concept of the driver model was there, but it was broken or haphazard. I was there when I needed printer drivers for Wordperfect, Lotus 123, etc. These days we assume things just work, and it was Microsoft that perfected this.

        Did Microsoft innovate other areas? Yeah, but guess what Apple i

    • Haha as if most university students aren't naive and cheap.

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:01AM (#45049183)

    and get them in the shop to learn how to fabercate their new impossible desgins

    3d printers and cad goes hand in hand with mill work, files and sandpaper

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      It is true that innovation is not just computers and printers. There is an important component of building impossible designs, and then scaling them back for production. One innovation of the Saturn program was welding. The weld lengths that were required were at least an order of magnitude beyond the state of the art at the time. On the project I was working on, the machinists needed to be very creative to get our work done.

      This needs to be communicated to schools where the kids in Calculus are consid

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:05AM (#45049191)
    I know there's bad English in the title; I took it from a song in Huckleberry Finn.

    We all seem to be wired to do something. It may be sports, music, art, construction, cars, whatever. I know I have been driven with curiosity of all things electronic/scientific as far back as I can remember. Its like spots on a leopard - I came this way. I have noted others are exactly the same way as far as their wiring goes, whether it be likes/dislikes/foods/sexual orientation/ whatever.

    Its easy to find kids with a bent to do this. They will flock to things like science fairs and techie conventions.

    They will do this, even with considerable social rejection for doing so.

    Face it, techie kids are not near as encouraged as one in sports or some sort of leadership skill.

    If you want one of these - catch one before he has been burned out by the system.

    Today's business environment is full of very highly paid suit-guys who are more fruit inspector than anything else, rejecting everything that is not perfect. People only handle so much rejection before they pass on doing what they love as a vocation then do it independently. A suit guy more obsessed with conformity and respect for authority is not apt to attract any creative types to his company. I think the kids have wised up that few of us stand a chance to be gainfully employed in the tech sector unless it is something like Google or Facebook. We can't get past the suit guy at the personnel office - you know - the guy who could not bias a transistor into the linear region if his life depended on it, but yet his signature determines whether or not we get employed, or can even speak to anyone knowledgeable in the field who could make an employment decision.

    Yes, I am jaded, but that has been my experience. I talk to a lot of kids about this field - and advise them to do this if you are wired to do it - otherwise there are lots more very highly profitable ways to earn a living. Banking and finance especially, One gets far more remuneration from owning rather than working under today's tax laws.
  • There's always Jack Andraka [wikipedia.org], who happened upon a method for cancer detection. Like many great discoveries, however, it was by chance - background of the discovery is readable across the interwebs. This year at the Intel Internation Science and Engineering Fair (which I attended, competing Computer Science of course), he placed but third in his category, amoungst many other third place winners.
    • And as a side note: if you need faith restored in the upcoming (my) generation, take a day visit to ISEF when it rolls around near you - they rotate around most major US cities, or even just read about it if you cannot - it's very much worth it. There's pretty incredible, mind-blowing research at every other booth.
    • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:59AM (#45049309)

      Kids like that are a good example of what can be done by high schoolers. They also show that universities are very useful. Jack did his work with a professor, based on published work by several other professors and students. It's because guys like George Whitesides and Charlie Johnson publish and talk about their work that he was able to pick it up. Working in a well run lab is an inherently collaborative experience, and experiencing it early can be very useful.

      Benefits flow both ways. Sometimes in academic groups, there's such a focus on doing funded research that people forget to try things just because they should. Young scientists are very good at pushing the older guys to keep trying out new stuff.

  • all BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:10AM (#45049213)

    you can innovate at 30, but can't. There's a reason.
    You can innovate at 20, but can't. There's a reason.

    You can innovate at 15.... it's the same reason.

    The reason: having a mentor.

    The NXT, FIRST and other competitions work cause the teams have very experienced mentors with the goal to promote innovation.

    Colleges used to have mentors, but because of IP competitiveness, marketing hyping bright minds (hence mentoring stops) so quickly, mentoring in college is dropping off. Especially as college kids try to negotiate deals with VCs like a basketball player.

    And if you're 30, no one with mentor you cause every mentor thinks you're out to steal IP or just hyping up your skills.

    In the end the VCs still win cause the labor is cheap (high schoolers) commpared to college kids who want to be the next Zuckerberg

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @02:31AM (#45049261) Journal

    New ideas are always floating around, it's just a matter of listening. I've been proposing the idea of a dynamic relational database that is less "stiff" than the current crop of databases for projects that need a rapid launch, but nobody seems to want to build one, yet can't explain why other than "it's too different, unfamiliar". (Most of the weak-points have been addressed or shored up against.)

    The bottleneck seems to be between the idea and the implementation, not lack of ideas. Maybe it's lack of guts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The bottleneck is always between idea and implementation. Ideas are cheap and in near infinite supply. Executing ideas successfully and creating a successful business from those ideas - that is always the hard part.

      The onus is not on others to explain why they don't want to build your idea; the onus is on you to convince them as to why they should.

      Maybe you haven't effectively communicated a compelling value proposition for why someone would want to adopt your technology over other proven methods. Maybe it

    • This isn't a flame...but try implementing your idea in an easy mode language like Python (or any highly expressive language). Your time investment won't be large - and if it works...perfect! Then you have a proof of concept and you can refine it to death, and then port it to a compiled language.

      You could host it on a visible site like github, sourceforge, or savannah to try and attract folks to help you if you are short on time as well. Time is probably the biggest barrier I have to implementing new softwar

  • This is not, by any chance, connected to a general trend in the US to scale down funding for research and education? To me it looks like an act of desparation, like trying to revive the record industry with a season of X-factor.

    There is no denying that young people have a lot of creativity and talent, but talent is only a small part of success; you may say that talent is "instant success" - you just need to add about 90% water in the form of sweat.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @05:40AM (#45049647)

    I was looking at this... the robot fighting etc... I don't think its actually spurring innovation because there are too many rules. The format etc is too constrained.

    Innovation is essentially about thinking outside the box. If your competition includes a box you have to stay inside of then its inherently not testing for innovation.

    What if I want to fight their robot with my genetically engineered cyborg spiders? That's way more innovative but probably not allowed.

    I don't know... the whole thing just looks a little too kiche.

  • by Pirulo ( 621010 )
    the kindergarten Lego league
  • Need to have more of the apprenticeship system or even just more schools with an trades / tech setting.

    We are pushing to many people into the older University system that was not really build for that as well being used to try to tech skills that should not be in an University.

    Also the push for all to go to University some have to dumb down as well.

  • Many people are simply not so much exposed to these events / competitions, but still go on to become better students at undergraduate level and beyond.

    They bring out talent from high school students, but at that point it is still far, far from real innovation. The problem setters and mentors are often university students anyway. These things encourage students to go beyond their high-school curriculum and think cleverly, so they have some great skills to use in industrial or academic settings. They are capa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes you find prodigies.. they reach adult levels of performance at a young age, but then, by the time they get to college, they aren't advancing anymore, and now they're just the same as everyone else.

  • The question answers itself, because the 16-year old tech geniuses from 2006 have become the 23-year old tech geniuses of today. Presumably any "tech genius" will become more genius as they grow older from 16 to 23. So today's 23-year old whizzes should always be superior than today's 16-year old whizzes. And after another seven years, some of today's 16-year olds will become 2020's best 23-year olds, and should outshine 2020's best 16-year olds, who won't be 23 until 2027. The better question to ask is

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Sunday October 06, 2013 @03:52PM (#45052707)

    It's pretty simple. Thrown money at the problem. A lot of it. Stupid amounts of it. Make the rewards for being a nerd as good or better than those showered all over the jocks. Make sure that a lot of these major geek kids get full scholarships, signing bonuses, and access to cutting edge lab facilities when they get to college. But you also have to add a fame component to it. These kids need to be put on TV and written up in mainstream magazines. And not just once every few years. Not just once a year but followed regularly as they move from high-school science fair star, through college, and all the way to startup company.

  • over the years. When a person gets wise to how things really work, how corrupt industry is, and how the media, industry and government takes everything and destroys it, they wise-up and simply drop-out.

    True innovators don't care about making big corporations money, or being part of a system that is based on the lowest common denominators of greed and a warped form of self interest.

    Big business wants to corrupt and brainwash kids, that's all this article is about. Creating an amoral class of dunces t

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell