We took these student insights and worked together with educational thought leaders and lifelong educators who have a passion for innovative, project-based learning methods, including the educational leads at Google and LEGO’s hands-on learning experts. After that, we matched these experiential insights with market analysis of other educational platforms to see what worked and what didn’t.
Our analysis helped us hone in on the real problem: the glaring gap in project-based learning opportunities that “spark” students in their development and lifelong passion for STEM. Equally, companies are actively seeking to grow a long-term talent pipeline and want to connect with the next generation of innovators. Connecting these two sides of the ecosystem made perfect sense.
But it was a big bet.
Given NYAS was already hosting a series of STEM challenges in March of 2016— a 250 student competition with PepsiCo and major semiconductor manufacturer ARM sponsoring— we decided to leverage these programs and build a minimum viable product in the form of a technology platform to test our hypotheses, providing a viable student collaboration experience.
The production schedule was a breakneck pace— starting in December 2015, the NYAS team worked out of Beyond’s NYC office three days a week, allowing for close collaboration. The atmosphere was almost collegial at times— when a problem or design decision arose, we were in close enough proximity that we would all gather together for hour-long discussions, as our designer on the project sketched out potential ideas in real time. It was the same kind of collaborative energy we were trying to create for the students who used Launchpad, and the effect translated to the product.
We supplemented this work with informal student testing throughout the process, and by March 2016, we had a minimum viable product.