Noble Summit: Win $20,000+ in Prizes for Best Teacher Ideas

Noble Summit: Win $20,000+ in Prizes for Best Teacher Ideas

We’re just six days away from the kickoff of the Noble Impact Educators Summit, and we’ve got great news: Your ideas could win your school a portion of $20,000+ in tech funds, thanks to the Summit’s presenting sponsor, the Arkansas Department of Career Education (ACE)!

The second day of #NobleSummit is focused on the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Civic Innovation Challenge, where attendees will join forces in teams to create and pitch innovative ideas to improve career education in Arkansas. Teams will consist of teachers, community leaders, and students.

Tech & Classroom Funding

Teachers on winning teams will win Perkins-allowable funding for new technology and classroom materials, in the amounts of:

  • 1st Place: $3,000 per teacher on the team
  • 2nd Place: $2,000 per teacher on the team
  • 3rd Place: $1,000 per teacher on the team

Pilot Program

In addition to Perkins funding, ACE is planning to pilot one lucky team’s idea. So, come with your A+ game!


The CTE Civic Innovation Challenge, taking place at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub on July 28th, is all about the intersection of teacher voice, student voice, and community voice. When we all come together, we can rewire education for purpose and relevance.

Register for the Noble Impact Educators Summit!

14 Resources For Young Entrepreneurs In Arkansas

14 Resources For Young Entrepreneurs In Arkansas

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

There was such interest in my previous post on how parents can help encourage their teens to pursue interest in STEM and entrepreneurial endeavors, that I decided to add some information to the partial list of programs mentioned in that post.

For young entrepreneurs in Arkansas, here is a list of 14 resources that can help bolster an interest in entrepreneurship and STEM subjects. Find one near you and engage in the programs or volunteer to help.

  1. Y.E.S. – The Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Capital, created the Youth Entrepreneur Showcase (Y.E.S.) for Arkansas business plan competition in 2005 to introduce young Arkansans in grades 5-8 to the potential and opportunities of entrepreneurship.
  2. EAST – The EAST program, a project-based learning program that teaches kids coding, video production, how to use design and GPS mapping software, and develop websites, is already in 200+ schools around the state.
  3. Arkansas Innovation Hub – Nonprofit organization with a maker space (lots of cool 3D printers, microprocessors, etc . . .) dedicated to talent and enterprise development in an environment where Arkansas entrepreneurs and innovators find support for success.
  4. Art Connection – A student art program located inside the Arkansas Innovation Hub
  5. Noble Impact – An education initiative that exposes students to relevant experiences and tools that enable them to navigate a world defined by uncertainty with an entrepreneurial skill set and a public service mindset.
  6. STEM Coalition – A statewide partnership of leaders from the corporate, education, government and community sectors which plans, encourages, coordinates and advocates policies, strategies, and programs supportive of excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in order to expand the economy of Arkansas and produce higher paying jobs. STEM Centers around the state may be found here.
  7. 100 Girls of Code – The mission of 100 Girls of Code is to achieve gender parity in STEM fields by introducing more young women to code and computer engineering at a young age. It seeks to inspire more girls to pursue a future in STEM. Check out the NWA Chapter.
  8. First Robotics – The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
  9. Best Robotics – In these project-based STEM program students learn to analyze and solve problems utilizing the Engineering Design Process, which helps them develop technological literacy skills. Programs exist in Jonesboro, Harrison, Little Rock, and Fort Smith.
  10. Arkansas Out-of-School Network – A network of after school programs around the state. A few notables include:
  11. Lastly, the following four museums also foster content with a focus on STEM and learning by doing:

  12. Arts and Science and Kids Museums’ Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (Pine Bluff)
  13. Museum of Discovery (Little Rock)
  14. Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs)
  15. Amazeum (Bentonville)

Do you know of a program in Arkansas that’s helping kids and teens follow their interests into STEM or entrepreneurship? If so, add it in the comments below!

How To Encourage Teens Exhibiting Entrepreneurial Traits

How To Encourage Teens Exhibiting Entrepreneurial Traits

StartupDad LogoThis post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.

Parents: Have you noticed any of these traits in your teens: Lack of interest in school; A messy room; Drawers and closets littered with a variety of electronic and small engine parts; Spending far more spare time on the computer in his/her room than outside playing or with friends; Staying up too late, doesn’t want to get up in the morning, tired much of the time; Generally mischievous behavior? Also, have you noticed burn marks where it appears a small explosion may have occurred, electricity outages, or parts missing from appliances, lawn equipment and furniture? Do some of your extension cords and tools seem to be missing?

As a parent, these appear to be signs of trouble that require some serious discipline, counseling, juvenile detention or a twelve step program. OR, you could have a young entrepreneur on your hands. Please don’t misunderstand, these could, in fact, be signs of a teen headed for serious trouble. They could also be signs of a restless teenager, bored with the system, who is trying to find an outlet for their creativity, curiosity, and product ideas.

While the signs look pretty similar, the actions parents take in these situations are pretty important. Parents can attempt to shut down this behavior with disciplinary action, let the behavior go after several unsuccessful attempts to stop it, or direct their teen to people and programs that will give them a somewhat structured outlet for their creativity, product development ideas and curiosity. Our son was disassembling his Happy Meals at age 8. Luckily, my wife didn’t make him stop. Turns out he was just trying to figure out how they worked.

DIY teen entrepreneursHere in central Arkansas, there are a variety of locations and programs where youth can experiment with ideas and develop skills in math, science, electronics, microprocessors, coding, app development, robotics, project management and entrepreneurship. A partial list includes Y.E.S., EAST, Innovation Hub, Art Connection, Noble Impact, STEM Coalition, 100 Girls of Code, First Robotics, Best Robotics, the Arts & Science Center, The Museum of Discovery, and a variety of local after-school programs that may have technology initiatives. There are similar programs in Northwest Arkansas. Many of these programs serve youth outside their region. The EAST program, a project based learning program that teaches kids coding, video production, how to use design and GPS mapping software, and develop websites is already in 200+ schools around our state and in a handful of schools in other states. 100 Girls of Code has had events in a variety of regions. All of these programs are underwritten by grants, public funding and private donors and investors so their cost is free or close to free. Part of my mission is to use communication technology to bring this content to every corner of our state. So many of these programs have sprung up around the country in the past five years that there is likely one near you. Find it and get plugged in.

If you are a parent, or a teen entrepreneur for that matter, who wants access to these programs, use the links in this post to contact these programs. If there isn’t one near you, talk to them about how you can access their services or figure out how you can start a program or club in your area. Be a local Champion! The power of like-minded people coming together to create a community is critical in these endeavors. A local group of parents and teen entrepreneurs makes it easier to carpool to after school activities, purchase project kits, materials and equipment, and discuss potential community projects and product development. Many of these programs started with a parent or group of parents and teen entrepreneurs who decided to start something in their area.

THE TAKEAWAY: As we go through our daily lives, usually at 100 MPH with our hair on fire, it is easy to believe that we are alone in dealing with challenges and we tend to seek remedies that are swift and immediate to alleviate what we perceive to be a problem. This tends to blind us to the resources all around us that can put us on a path of turning a problem situation into a positive outlet for growth and change. While it is certainly possible that some of the traits noted above are, in fact, signs of a serious problem that requires immediate attention and discipline, these signs may also be indicators of a need for a constructive outlet for creative and design skills. As parents it is our job to figure out which one it is and do something about it!

Dream Big: Notes From Visiting A Junior Achievement Competition

Dream Big: Notes From Visiting A Junior Achievement Competition

When I get the chance to speak with Arkansan high school students, my first goal is to impart a sense of “I can do anything!” through the sharing of my personal story of growing up in poverty in Arkansas to finding my calling in life and being able to support myself and others around me. If I can leave a room and have empowered at least one student to reframe his or her story and understanding of what the future could hold, I won’t be able to contain my smile for the rest of the day.

Erica Swallow speaks at Junior Achievement Youth Business Competition
Noble Impact VP of Product Erica Swallow speaks at the competition.
I was honored, then, to give the keynote presentation at the AT&T Youth Business Challenge, hosted by Junior Achievement of Arkansas, a non-profit organization that has brought financial literacy, career readiness, and entrepreneurship curriculum to students in Arkansas since 1987 — where I got to experience just that… A handful of students thanking me in person afterwards for sharing my story. [Thank you to Junior Achievement of Arkansas board member Mitch Bettis for the invitation to speak — one of my passions is working with driven, young leaders.]

Speaking with students is just as meaningful and educational for me as it is for the students, though. I arrived early, so that I could see the business competition in action. It consists of a multi-quarter business simulation, in which students work in teams to analyze market trends and set business budgets accordingly, for each quarter. At the front of the room, a couple of Junior Achievement staffers run the simulation, while students buzz away energetically at their team stations. Like in the “real world,” students aren’t notified of how many quarters their businesses will “run” — it’s simply an ongoing cycle that they must plan as they go, feeding on market performance.

Though the simulation software was old-school, 64-bit design, the learnings behind what the students were doing were only lessons I learned in college. Students were asked to look at past market performance — including units of their product sold, profits achieved, and total market share achieved — to adjust marketing dollars, number of units produced, and pricing, among other details.

As I’ve been from time to time since moving back to Arkansas six months ago (after a decade on the East Coast working and attaining two degrees in business management), I was impressed with the education and performance of some of Arkansas’s students. Had someone thrown me into a simulation like the one presented at Junior Achievement when I was in high school, I’m not confident I would have grasped the concept immediately. It is thanks to the resources that have been presented to or available to these students that they have the opportunity to attempt and excel at such exercises — exercises that help build an analytical mindset.

What I also enjoyed seeing was that attendees included high school teams from all backgrounds, including Benton High School, eStem High School, McClellan High School, Maumelle High School, Conway High School, Little Rock Christian, the Boys & Girls Club of Whetstone, Hall High School, Bauxite High School, and Second Baptist Church, among others. While many of the schools boast funding and special interest in economics and business education, some of the representative schools don’t have as many resources, though they likely have educators who are determined to give their students just as much access to opportunity.

2004 FBLA State Conference
The 2004 FBLA State Conference made my scrapbook.
These are the types of early opportunities that made me who I am today. Though I hadn’t heard of Junior Achievement while in high school, a very similar experience — participating in the Future Business Leaders of America state competition — was a perspective-altering experience for me. A few things happened. I:

  • Traveled to our state’s capital for the first time ever
  • Was given an opportunity to showcase my talent in impromptu speaking
  • Witnessed other driven students excel at their work
  • Was coached and given feedback by our FBLA advisor, and
  • Bonded with my classmates who cared about their futures, too.

Perusing through the handful of scrapbooks I made while in high school, it’s easy to see that the moments that made a huge impact on me all shared the above traits. Other meaningful entries in my scrapbook include competing in the first national electric vehicle competition with my high school team in Atlanta, Georgia; marching in a parade with my high school band at Disney World in Orlando, FL; and attending Universal Dance Association dance camp with my high school dance team in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The Junior Achievement business competition I attended this month brought back those memories for me. For some students, I learned, it was the first time they had visited their state capital. For others, it was the first time they had worn business attire — in one case, a club advisor had helped the school’s team shop for proper attire.

These are the events and moments in Arkansas that mean a lot to me. I hope we can do more of this moving forward.

And on dreaming big… I took one sticky note with me to the podium to remind myself of the key points I wanted to hit in my keynote speech, as well as in the questions and answers session. I’ll share those four points with you, as well as a few sentences about each:

  1. Dream big. As a senior in high school, my high school counselor advised me not to attend my dream school, New York University, because my “family couldn’t afford it.” Little did she know, I would be supporting myself, and I wasn’t letting anything get in the way of me and my dreams.
  2. Take initiative. When I got to NYU, I needed to earn money to pay for school. I immediately noticed these flyers that said I could be a part of consumer behavior studies; after the first one, I was so intrigued that I contacted the professor who was running the experiment to learn more about the study. He was so impressed with my curiosity that he offered me an internship. I was the first freshman to ever work for him; his other interns were graduate students. Initiative pays off.
  3. Know your worth. Coming from Arkansas, where I had worked at Mazzio’s Pizza for three years prior to college, I had understood that my “worth” was about $5.15 per hour, the then minimum hourly wage I was earning. New York was a whole different ball field, though. I nearly tripled my wage with that move. And had I not had a mentor who explained salary negotiation to me right out of college, I would have cheated myself out of about 50% of my “worth” at my first full-time job. Research and knowledge are key. Don’t fall in the trap I did for a year out of school! That’s a lot of potential earnings I could have put towards my student loans!
  4. Never settle. Lastly, we are all capable of anything we put our minds to — it’s not always a lone endeavor, remember! Early in my career, I accepted a few roles that were definitely not a fit for me, all for the wrong reasons. I settled, because I thought it’d lead to something I’d like more. I settled, because I thought I’d be able to morph the role to better suit me once I got there. I settled, because the team really wanted me. Settling only leads to feeling unsettled. When you feel like you’re about to settle, keep moving forward and ask yourself, “What is it that I really want?” Find the answer, and do that!

In a nutshell, the above is what I hoped to convey to the Junior Achievement competition teams when I took the stage. One indication that I made an impact was a particularly thoughtful question from a student in the audience named Afraz, “What gave you the drive to become an entrepreneur?” For one, I answered, it was being a first-generation college student, knowing that by going to college, I would change the history of my family. Secondly, though — and I’m only just now reflecting on this — it was the opportunities that were provided to me that enabled me to see that I could be more than what was expected of me, and that I could attain any future I imagined for myself.

I hope that my talk was inspiring for students — that they, too, realize they can achieve their biggest dreams in this lifetime. I’m certainly still reaching for mine!

If you’d like to get a better look at what the day at Junior Achievement was like, check out Junior Achievement of Arkansas’s “AT&T Youth Business Challenge” Facebook photo album.