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Event fosters software and STEM entrepreneurs for education

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 29, 2015
Side benefits go to Kansas City as a budding startup magnet.

Mobile Maker already has pilot schools signed up for the concept, but the team needs to raise funds, said Clayton Kohler, a member of the team who was in charge of business plan creation and cost analysis during cram sessions. "We still have work to do with our website and then funding before we get into schools, and I believe we are only two months max away," he said.

Kohler, a native of St. Louis, is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Even if the teams' end products don't make it to market or get vastly altered, the event helped create excitement among participants. There was spinoff value for Crossroads Academy as well and for Kansas City's growing reputation as a Midwest startup magnet.

"The startup weekend was an incredible event," Kohler said, with the only hiccup a videoconference with a city official that cut out. "Kansas City is the perfect city for a startup like ours."

"There was a lot of energy and a lot of fun," added Boody, a former middle school math teacher who participated in the Teach For America program. "It was really cool to see so many computer programmers, teachers and entrepreneurial cheerleaders. It was such a cool mix of people."

At the Crossroads
Boody lives in an older house in the downtown area near Crossroads Academy. She moved back to the Kansas City area after leaving for a time in search of the opportunities the area now affords. "For overall entrepreneurship, this is an important time for Kansas City," she said. "We're seeing a lot of economic development in housing and transportation and seeing people move back in to the downtown and buy homes and even move companies here."

Crossroads Academy, a tuition-free charter school for 280 pupils in kindergarten through grade 7, recently beefed up its Wi-Fi access atop the Google Fiber connection with help from Meshworks, a wireless consultancy.

"Actually, it was perfect timing," Boody said. "We got really lucky that they put in more Wi-Fi access points. Every team was crunching code and had a tech component to their work."

The academy is located in the renovated historic Kirk Building, which originally opened in 1908. The building is where Walt Disney once worked for the Kansas City Slide Company and was introduced to the basics of motion pictures and animation, according to Dean Johnson, Crossroads Academy co-founder and executive director.

The academy chose the downtown location, just three blocks from a coming streetcar line to run along Main Street, partly because of its proximity to civic and cultural amenities, Johnson said. No other grade schools were located in the area. Students use the nearby Kansas City central library as their school library and have recess on the nearby Barney Allis Plaza. The historic Folly Theater in downtown is where the students perform school musicals.


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