About the team

Premont Independent School District has partnered with the Rural Schools Innovation Zone (RSIZ) to develop the Leaders in Future Technology (LIFT) Capstone and serve students in RSIZ Career Academies. This partnership serves a population of 25 students in 11th and 12th grades throughout each year of the Rural Tech Project. The students participating in the LIFT Capstone are representative of the region’s demographics — 70% are economically disadvantaged, 10% qualify for special education services, and many reside in remote areas with no access to internet or broadband. In fact, the RSIZ campus provides the sole source of reliable internet for much of the community. There is a pressing need to provide technology education at no additional cost to the students; to meet this need, RSIZ’s program is providing all resources (including laptops, internet, transportation, and mentoring) to participating students free of charge. 

RSIZ has developed a Rural Tech Project program that aims to achieve three key goals. First, this program will boost student participation and representation by ensuring capstone students will accurately reflect enrollment from the three school district partners, including gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Second, it aims to secure more student outcomes and opportunities, with the hope that Capstone participants express interest in technology by enrolling in a technology-related postsecondary program, building technology products to solve community problems, and entering the workforce in a technology-related occupation. Third, it hopes to continue the program as a Capstone experience for RSIZ academy students after the Rural Tech Project funds are exhausted.

The RSIZ LIFT Tech Startup Incubator has launched with the implementation of Phase 2. Students are developing technology-enabled solutions to address challenges in their community, with the end goal of pitching solutions to a judging panel at the year’s end. The program has selected 11 students, with two of the five RSIZ Career Academies represented. Students from all three RSIZ school district partners are represented. Students will earn competency-based badges through IBM SkillsBuild in Emerging Technology and Professional Skills in a Digital World, while learning entrepreneurship principles delivered by their Academy instructors. From August to April, each Academy Team will develop a technology-enabled solution to help solve a community-wide challenge faced by its academy’s industry. 

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Keep up with the team's progress

Winter 2022 semester update

Recent highlights

During the first quarter of 2022, LIFT Capstone participants continued to develop their projects and talk to relevant experts. One team received project feedback from Marissa Holiday from Colorado University and C.J. Neumann from the Seattle Seahawks.

In the summer, the team is planning a trip to Austin, Texas, to learn about the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. Places they will visit include:

Upcoming

During the initial planning phase, the Google Analytics certification was identified as a prime certification opportunity for LIFT Capstone participants to pursue and obtain. Once LIFT teams have operational websites to promote their businesses/solutions, we feel that the Google Analytics training will be more appropriate and better received. Feedback from instructors indicates that this year’s students may not yet have enough knowledge and training to be successful in obtaining the certification. An additional certification option is being investigated.  Specifically, the Entrepreneurship and Small Business certification from Certiport.  

The team has also begun planning for the 2022-2023 LIFT Capstone cycle. At least six applications have already been submitted by students seeking to participate in next year’s program. 

Fall 2021 semester update

Premont ISD’s program involves two “academy teams,” each developing a technology-enabled solution that helps solve a community-wide challenge faced by their academy’s industry: the Grow Your Own Educator Academy Team and the STEM Discovery Zone Academy Team.

The Grow Your Own Educator Academy Team has developed several initial concepts of its technology-enabled solution. The students comprising this team are aspiring educators and educational leaders. Through observation at their district campuses, the team has determined that a problem exists during student arrival and dismissal times: It is challenging to know which students were on the buses in the morning and have arrived at school. Similarly, it is challenging to know which students have boarded the buses to return home in the afternoons.

The team aims to develop a tracking system that will allow school staff to easily determine which students were on the buses and have arrived at school each morning and determine which students successfully boarded the bus in the afternoon to return home. A prototype for a tracking beacon will be developed which can be attached to student backpacks. Information from the beacons will be sent to an app or website to provide summaries of student arrivals and dismissals.

The team has a secondary, related concept which could leverage the tracking technology. The team indicates that a problem exists during instructional time when students leave the classroom to go to the restroom or see the nurse. Some students do not promptly return to class and roam the school building. A digital tracking system could help identify students taking too long and misusing instructional time.

The STEM Discovery Zone Academy Team has developed an initial concept of their technology-enabled solution. The students comprising this team are aspiring engineers and technology professionals. Through observation within their small, rural communities, the team has determined that a problem exists in small municipalities in terms of finding grants and grant writers to apply for funding for public projects. The team aims to develop an online portal or marketplace to help small towns and cities identify grant opportunities to fund public projects. Additionally, the technology solution will provide a matching function to help match municipalities with qualified grant writers, since many small towns may not have a staff member to specifically write grant proposals.

Both teams are researching the potential market for their technology solution and soliciting early feedback from stakeholders to determine the feasibility of their concepts. Now that the teams have identified a specific community issue that they wish to address with a technology-enabled solution, technology advisors need to be recruited and vetted to support the teams. A vision for Premont’s program is to bring the second cohort of teams to Austin, Texas, for a summer field experience.