Prof. Miller and Rio Hart Present UHP Course at Conference

9 Nov

Most students spend their time taking classes, having fun and participating in extracurriculars. It takes a certain type of young adult to spend their free time researching algae as a source of biofuel. But that’s just what junior Rio Hart did during his freshman year–and beyond.

When the University Honors Program freshmen entered Professor Houston Miller’s science classroom on the first day, they were in for a surprise. Rather than the usual introduction or high school review, students were thrown into a business scenario. They pitched their idea to an investor (in this case, Professor Miller) and then began troubleshooting their plans.

“We talked to leaders in the biofuels industry, leaders in the Department of Agriculture, and some business leaders in order to understand the realities of start-ups,” said Hart. “By the end of the class, not only were we entirely comfortable with the chemical and biological science we studied, we were comfortable discussing the business and funding realities of our start-up, and the economic environment we were entering by trying to sell our product.”

The interdisciplinary experience will be presented at the Association of American Colleges and Universities conference entitled Next Generation STEM Learning: Investigate, Innovate, Inspire. The meeting, held November 8-10, features speakers, discussions, and poster sessions on the topic of innovation in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

UHP Director Maria Frawley will join Professor Miller and Hart in representing the University. Their lecture, “Using the Start-Up Business Model to Sell Science and Technology,” translates the lessons from the classroom to the real world, an experience the students in the class have already had.

Hart says he benefited from the real world aspects of the class. “Our professor was able to give us guidance when we asked for it, but did not hold our hands and lead us down a set path,” said Hart. “We became adept at self-led and team-based learning, and we ended up gaining a lot more knowledge about the field.”

The class united science, technology, business and public policy, a unique intersection that has garnered attention in the STEM world. These three representatives of the UHP will present their research in Kansas City on November 9th.

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