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Know all about NOVA


Despite the super typhoon that hit Taiwan last weekend, students still gathered at school in the name of entrepreneurship and NOVA weekend’s second year was an immense success.

Unlike last year, this year NOVA had three tracks available for students to join: the Social Impact Track, High Tech Track, and the General Track. These tracks allow for more diversity of projects and a more focused judging process.

NOVA was created last year by students in Mr. Ives’s Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation class and continues to be run by students. As a class project last year, students wanted to create a positive social impact at school by giving all TAS students an opportunity to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life.

Student leader, Jeremiah H. (12), says, “The ultimate aim of NOVA this year still remains the same as last year: to promote entrepreneurial spirit and design thinking throughout the TAS community and facilitate the growth of student led projects that solve real world issues.”

The High Tech Track will allow more students who choose to develop something technology-oriented to compete against each other and the General Track is available for students who want to pursue projects that involve people and ideas instead of technology.

The Social Impact Track reaches out to students who are more socially-minded and gives them the chance to develop an idea for a new program or service for an NGO that can make a social impact. Eighth graders also participated because of its MUN-centric nature. Ryan Villeneuva from Best Delegate, a global resource for Model United Nations, came to TAS and spoke to students in this track about how to effectively build an organization that would advance a social cause.

“Hopefully, teams will come to NOVA with new ideas on how to solve pressing social issues and leave with the ability to implement real solutions,” says Jeremiah. Each team is encouraged to brainstorm, prototype, and design projects that they can feasibly execute moving forwards. “All of the time that students spent prototyping their products focuses on this central theme that an idea is only of value if it can be implemented.”

John Gangi from NIST International School in Bangkok spoke to teams in the NOVA Social Impact track about FairNIST, a student-led social entrepreneurship venture that uses profits from coffee sales to support community projects in rural Thai villages. After hearing about this real life instance of social entrepreneurship, students were able to use some of the strategies and skills they gathered from this workshop in their own projects.

In just three short days, students researched, designed, prototyped, and pitched their projects and ideas. 21 teams participated and three teams were chosen as winners, one in each track. Jeremiah says, “Each team is judged on a general set of criteria that makes for a successful startup. This includes how well a team defines a problem they wish to solve, designs a solution to address the problem, produces prototypes to demonstrate their solution, and created a sustainable plan for growth.”

Each winning team receives the opportunity to present their project to the school board along with guidance from faculty members on how to advance their project and further its development. Seed capital is also potentially involved to help students implement their projects. Best Pitch Awards will also be awarded to teams that give the best pitch. Despite this typhoon, NOVA teams were quick to adapt to the sudden change. NOVA student leaders implemented an online system for each team to create and submit a video pitch.

The winning team for the Social Impact Track was Music for Bandipur. Bandipur, a rural village in Nepal, is a destitute area where students are unable to reach their full potential because they lack the resources to do so. Music for Bandipur strives to give international students an opportunity to teach Bandipur children music through an online mentorship program or travel to Bandipur to teach music in person.

The winning team for the High Tech Track was Scriba. The Scriba is designed to help students focus better in class by providing a system that will help transcribe notes and lectures. Voice to document transcription technology gives Scriba the ability to record and even recognize speakers through video and audio and then transcribe whatever was spoken.

Lastly, the winning team for the General Track was AvoTo. Their idea is to aid TAS students in creating a better academic path for themselves based on the student’s interests. Through a website and informational sessions, students will be better equipped to select classes they wish to take for the next academic year.

Around the same time as NOVA weekend, an EARCOS teachers’ workshop was also going on. Teachers from East Asia participated in some workshops as well as observed the event as a way of learning about it.

Mr. Ives says, “The EARCOS workshop is focused on innovation, social entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship as a lot of schools are increasingly trying to find ways to create opportunities for students to learn about innovation and social entrepreneurship.”

Beyond supporting the entrepreneurial spirit, NOVA also provides an opportunity for students to work collaboratively on creative projects.

Jeremiah says, “I think NOVA allows students to grow into more determined, collaborative, and creative individuals. Students learn not to give up on an idea at the first sign of difficulty, but instead to think creatively to address an issue. Students are forced to resolve their differences and work together as a team to achieve their end goal.”

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