E-STEM: Educating the Next Generation of STEM Entrepreneurs

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E-STEM: Educating the Next Generation of STEM Entrepreneurs

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

NFTE provides programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities and to plan for successful futures. We teach entrepreneurship to help students graduate from high school with a plan for success. E-STEM will build on NFTE’s core entrepreneurship program that is proven to engage under-served youth and integrate rigorous STEM goals (math achievement and 21st century skill development) through an experiential, project-based learning methodology. Central to the course, students will build business plans for STEM-focused enterprises. The goal of our new E-STEM initiative will be for students to not only graduate high school but do so with a plan to complete a post-secondary degree in a STEM-related field.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our target audience is young people ages 11-18 from low-income communities. The schools NFTE works in across America have an average free or reduced lunch rate of 75%. In the four cities where we will implement the E-STEM pilot, each is profoundly challenged with both high poverty and significant high school dropout rates. One-third of all high school students, and nearly half of all African American and Latino youth, do not graduate with their class. The individual and societal effects of this crisis are staggering: over their lifetimes, on average, high school graduates earn $300,000 more than drop-outs. College graduates earn an additional $1 million. Reforms of all kinds are certainly needed to remedy poverty, educational achievement gaps, workforce shortages and drop-out rates. Over our more than 20-year history NFTE is increasingly engaging with more stakeholders to help bring about positive, lasting change including listening to students who themselves say they would stay in school if it were more relevant to their lives. We are seeing improvements in how we most effectively work within various structures such as schools, city and federal government, and the private sector. We now have formal partnerships with major U.S. school districts. We also participate in and coordinate field leadership initiatives including the Presidential Advisory Committee on Financial Capability, Start Up America, and the Urban Entrepreneurship Summit.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Imagine the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates coming from some of America’s most challenged and resource poor public schools. E-STEM will make this a reality by exciting students about studying challenging subjects in ways they never thought possible! Using entrepreneurship, E-STEM will motivate youth towards educational achievement and sow the seeds of career exploration, possibility and discovery among traditionally underrepresented youth including minorities and girls. E-STEM will increase the number of youth from low-income high schools who are provided rigorous, engaging coursework in STEM. We have tracked STEM related business plans entered in our competitions and found that only 14.2% are related to STEM fields. The E-STEM target will be that at least 75% of participants create STEM-related business plans. NFTE can identify no other nationally proven program working to elevate STEM achievement for low-income youth that also teaches entrepreneurship skills needed to commercialize STEM enterprises. Through building a STEM focused business plan, students will achieve strong math and 21st century skills proficiency (communication, critical thinking, technology, financial literacy, etc.) and gain exposure to business opportunities and careers within STEM fields. E-STEM will also help underserved students develop technology skills through use of digital tools in unique ways to extend learning and leverage effective volunteer resources when they are not available in person.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

NFTE will pilot E-STEM in four communities in partnership with the following school districts: New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco. E-STEM is designed to target those students entering high school who are struggling in math. NFTE’s model consists of four primary components: experiential entrepreneurship curriculum; teacher training and professional development; business plan competition; and volunteer engagement. E-STEM will maintain NFTE’s course sequence and add experiential components oriented for STEM skill development and career awareness. The course comprises an introduction to entrepreneurship, opportunity recognition, market research, marketing, sales, economics of one unit, financial statements, financial ratios, financing, and record-keeping. Of NFTE’s eight core experiential activities, four will be re-imagined for STEM and four will be newly developed. E-STEM will utilize and rely heavily on volunteers (STEM professionals/entrepreneurs) to teach lessons and bring real world context and expertise into the program. Volunteers will serves as guest speakers, field trip hosts, business plan advisors/mentors, and competition judges. We will also develop a STEM business case study focused on team activities and supplementary lessons on technology and math skills such as building websites, conducting market and financial analyses in Excel, and constructing data-rich infographics. The business plan template will highlight STEM components and students will be encouraged to build models/prototypes to demonstrate their idea’s viability/functionality.
About You
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Organization Phone


Organization Address

120 Wall Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10005

Organization Country

, NY, New York County

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

NFTE’s founder Steve Mariotti developed a youth entrepreneurship program for inner-city high school youth after being mugged on the Lower East Side of New York City for only $10. Steve could not believe young people would take such a high risk for such a low return. He quickly found that his students set higher goals for themselves, re-engaged in school, and increased their performance in math when re-introduced to academics through the lens of entrepreneurship and experiential learning. Since then, in partnership with school systems and local business communities, NFTE has replicated the program in 11 offices, today serving 15,000 students per year in low-income U.S. schools. Yet as the world has evolved and STEM fields are so vital to the renewed vitality of the American economy, there remains significant need to scale entrepreneurship programs and to do so in ways that are directly integrated into core academic subjects and 21st century skills. Because of this, Steve Mariotti believes NFTE’s program model can be naturally enhanced to easily align with and promote STEM achievement among traditionally underrepresented populations. Steve has long promoted the power of ownership of ideas and innovation. E-STEM is now an ideal vehicle for showing youth how it can be done.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

E-STEM will bring about positive changes in three dimensions: STEM career aspirations; math and technology skills; and entrepreneurial knowledge and behavior. A pre-/post-survey administered at the beginning and end of the school year will determine impact on STEM aspirations; in addition, we will compile students’ business plans and aim to see upward of 75% for STEM-related ideas. To assess progress in math, we will gather data regarding students’ performance in their traditional math courses, aiming to see performance at least 20% above predicted and/or grade-level appropriate proficiency. Technology skills will be assessed through projects associated with the STEM business case study simulation, experiential activities, and the business plan components. A rubric developed by NFTE will ensure consistent evaluation. To capture entrepreneurial knowledge and behavior, NFTE will (a) institute formative, periodic, and summative assessments; (b) develop an evaluation rubric for in-class presentations tied to the course’s experiential activities and case study activities; and (c) develop a business plan evaluation rubric consistent with the rubric provided to competition judges. Assessments will revolve around multi-step scenario problems targeting knowledge such as how to define a market and calculate return on investment; the rubrics will evaluate students’ mastery of this same entrepreneurial knowledge set, in addition to skills such as communication and collaboration.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Year one, the four-city pilot will launch in two schools, one class each, for eight total classes and 200 students. Year 2, schools will add a second class, raising the total to 16 classes and 400 students. Year 3, NFTE will expand to 32 classes and 800 students. NFTE will seek to quickly bring greater scale to the program after completing the pilot evaluation including outside our focus of low-income urban school districts. NFTE would offer teacher training and access to the program’s full curriculum, including volunteer video. In addition, NFTE would make available resource guides for schools and teachers interested in recruiting volunteers through local E-STEM partners, parent associations or a dedicated VolunteerMatch channel.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

With any new project, you make the attempt because you believe you have an idea that can make an important difference and in this case in the lives of children from low-income communities. But with it there are always risks and challenges involved. Barriers that might occur in E-STEM may include lack of sufficient funding, inconsistent teacher effectiveness, and modest initial outcomes data. We believe we can overcome funding challenges and in fact potentially raise significant support if the outcomes data show positive findings and trends early on in the project. We can improve teacher effectiveness by setting clear requirements and benchmarks for schools and educators upfront in the program’s implementation so that expectations are fully known and agreed to should we need to make a change. Further, we can take successes and challenges of E-STEM teachers to build out effective training and professional development. Lastly, we can overcome poor or modest research outcomes data if given time to make programmatic adjustments.

Tell us about your partnerships

By its very nature, NFTE is a highly collaborative organization that leverages partnerships with public schools, the business community, institutions of higher education, individuals, and philanthropic partners to provide robust programs. To guide our partner schools in program implementation, NFTE staff commit to visit each class at least three to five times per semester to meet with the teacher, observe class, occasionally lead an activity; introduce students to at least one guest speaker; bring business plan coaches to class at least twice; and run classroom-level or school-level competitions with volunteers. In addition to schools, we partner with other field practitioners and industry leaders who are working to advance education, small business creation, and youth development in marginalized communities. Some of these partnerships include Global Entrepreneurship Week, the White House, Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year program, and Pearson Publishing. Specific to STEM-focused partnerships, NFTE is actively engaged with companies such as AECOM, Microsoft, Google and others that are providing funding to support core programming with newly developed STEM content and critical employee volunteers to lead STEM classrooms exercises, activities and field trips. Inclusion of volunteers both STEM entrepreneurs and employees from companies working in STEM-related fields are essential to our program format.

Explain your selections

We are actively raising capital for our new E-STEM initiative and have secured financial support and volunteer commitments so far from SAP, AECOM, Google, LinkedIn, CSC, Intel, and others for this work. We are submitting an application to the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund for development funds over five years to design, pilot, assess, and expand E-STEM. Further, we are pursuing potential contributions for this work from corporations and foundations interested in STEM and entrepreneurship. We are also working closely with local school districts to implement this work which may include funds to pay for teacher training, student textbooks, and other program-related costs.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We plan to generate visibility and excitement for E-STEM by developing a STEM-specific track within our business plan competition series to give these students greater prominence. Further, we will carefully assess program implementation and class-level data collected from teachers and NFTE staff. Data will include number of students participating in the program, professional development activities for teachers, coverage of themes and experiential activities, and volunteer hours as guest speakers and mentors. Complementing this will be teacher surveys and class observations to provide qualitative data on the process of implementation to help refine the program to ensure progress toward achieving intended outcomes. Short-term student outcomes will be evaluated using surveys. Intermediate outcomes will be assessed using publicly available district data based on propensity score matching or another rigorous matching procedure. All students will be tracked for the duration of the project (and beyond it, for those who will start the program in later stages of the project, with the continuation of data collection incorporated into future NFTE research/evaluation initiatives). Evaluation will be conducted by an independent evaluator, namely the RAND Corporation. NFTE is set to launch a two-year research project with a group of RAND researchers directed by Dr. John Pane, an expert in the implementation and effectiveness of educational innovations, with a focus on math, science, and education technology initiatives.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

NFTE’s leveraged model is such that partnerships are essential to the delivery of any program we operate. For the E-STEM project, we will partner directly with low-income public schools in New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Schools interested in participating in the pilot will be asked to submit applications highlighting three primary criteria: student need, as demonstrated by free/ reduced lunch data, test scores, and graduation rates; E-STEM’s connection to the school’s overall mission and strategy, including STEM course offerings; and the school’s capacity to partner with NFTE, as demonstrated by the teacher nominated to implement the pilot, his/ her nominated team members, and the administration. Schools provide unique, critical resources to our program – students, teachers, and facilities. We will also partner with corporations in STEM-related fields that can add value through employee volunteerism, products/services, and other industry assets. We have confirmed engagement commitments from Google, Intel, AECOM, SAP America, CSC, and LinkedIn, and we expect more. Corporations bring unique business and industry knowledge into the classroom and provide learning opportunities for students to connect abstract or complex concepts to real career and business scenarios. This includes access to STEM entrepreneurs already involved in NFTE’s programs like Andrew Mason, co-founder of Groupon and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of companies like LinkedIn.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

We have four levels of accountability to help drive student success. First and most importantly, the students will take ownership over their coursework and enter the program will full knowledge of the requirements and expectations. In line with all NFTE programs, challenges and incentives will be used throughout the course to keep student motivation high including financial prizes awarded through business plan competitions and other rewards for select games and simulation activities to recognize achievement, creativity, excellent individual or teamwork, and innovation. Second, schools will be held accountable to all requirements and deliverables that are agreed to based on their successful application to participate. This will include designating E-STEM teams that includes a strong, capable teacher, a math teacher, and guidance counsellor and affording them necessary time for training, professional development and program check-ins. School leadership will also commit to providing needed student data for research and evaluation and participation in partnership meetings for periodic updates and program assessment. Third, teachers will be essential to driving success and accountability. They will set high standards for students with clearly defined goals, requirements, and timelines. They will implement fun, engaging classes and fully tap into the resources NFTE will provide through direct staff support and outside volunteers and activities. Fourth, NFTE staff will manage all aspects of E-STEM and form a dynamic assessment and feedback loop to track student and program progress ongoing. By doing, so they will have an accurate sense of student achievement and knowledge of implementation milestones. Further, strong NFTE project management will help to limit negative surprises and maximize positive surprises for organizational learning and program improvements across cities and sites.


Investment, Human Resources/Talent, Marketing/Media, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

Financial investments from supporting partners/funders (government, corporations, foundations) will be essential to implementing well-designed and resource-rich E-STEM programs. Success of E-STEM will be heavily reliant on integrating significant volunteer participation of local professionals and entrepreneurs working in STEM-related fields. Volunteers will spend time with students in and out of the classroom speaking, leading exercises, hosting field trips, advising students on business ideas, and helping them explore possibilities for continuing their education. We also will be open to working with other groups to bolster our efforts by creating ongoing programs and reciprocal referral partnerships with minority and women’s organizations and state/city STEM collaboratives.


Human Resources/Talent, Marketing/Media, Research/Information, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

NFTE is interested in developing partnerships to best leverage our efforts and deepen our impact. This will be best achieved by making E-STEM a school-wide intervention. As such we envision our E-STEM teachers and NFTE staff to work in close collaboration with math teachers and guidance counsellors to set students on a college-bound trajectory through ongoing and advanced math courses and other STEM classes throughout students’ high school careers. We also will develop school-wide promotions and incentives to increase the “cool” factor and attractiveness of the program. For the STEM field broadly, we will share our research methods and findings to help all organizations learn what interventions are or are not working well to formulate ways to improve, sustain and scale.