Carnegie Mellon Startup 101 Takes Lectures Beyond The Clicker
Millions of college students across the country suffer through lectures every year. The lecture has been around for hundreds of years and while college campuses are getting gigantic video scoreboards, robots to deliver things from class to class, electric car charging stations and AI infused planetariums, the lecture has gone unchanged.
Some lectures offer the clicker, an easy way for students to respond to true/false and multiple choice questions. For some professors, it’s just a way to make sure students are falling asleep.
Chemical engineering, Ph.D. student, Justin Weinberg along with co-founder Igor Belyayev experienced the pain of lectures and how ineffective that learning process actually is. The lecture problem is very prevalent in STEM majors. Today 60% of college students who declare a STEM major, don’t actually finish it. Weinberg and Belyayev believe that active learning could help improve these numbers. Traditional lectures are considered passive learning.
“What we’re trying to do with 101 is take college STEM out of the dark ages of passive learning, and usher in the new age of active learning,” Weinberg told the Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering blog, “We’re doing this by inventing tools that allow professors to easily integrate problem-solving exercises into the lecture that students can solve right on their personal devices.”
With their product, Chem101, the startup has created an edtech tool that’s improving student engagement in college STEM classrooms. Chemistry professors send problems that their students can complete on personal devices during lecture. One of their modules allows students to draw and submit structures of molecules on their tablets or smartphones and send right back to the professor.
Chem101 has already been used at Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, University of Cincinnati, Temple University, Duquesne University and Philadelphia University. A survey conducted after the fall pilot had 1100 respondents and great feedback including:
- 88% of students agreed that Chem101 helped them learn Lewis structures
- 77% indicated that they preferred using Chem101 over any existing course tools, i.e. clickers
- 40% of students agreed that using Chem101 increased their interest in chemistry after using the product for just a 2–3 week portion of the curriculum.
Those results, plus the fact that Weinberg and Belyayev are a rockstar team, were enough to attract an investment from First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund out of Philadelphia.
Now the startup is off to the Startup Madness Finals at South By Southwest Interactive.
You can check out 101 here.