After four weeks, 16 contestants, and thousands of votes, Inc.'s Coolest College Startups competition has finally come to an end. And the winner is...
Carnegie Mellon's 101!
Founded by Justin Weinberg and Igor Belyayev in 2014, the edtech company has seen significant growth since then. To note a few of its achievements, Columbia University is a partner as is University of Cincinnati. Just last month, 101 placed first at the SXSW Student Startup Madness competition, and took home third place in the McGinnis Venture Competition at Carnegie Mellon University.
101's core creation was inspired by Weinberg's own experience as a STEM student. Not only did he learn the materials, but he went on to teach as both a student tutor and a teaching assistant at Carnegie Mellon. Along the way, Weinberg realized that STEM classes needed a fix.
"There's a larger problem at hand, which is the fact that STEM classrooms and lectures haven't fundamentally changed in centuries," Weinberg said. "The course involves sitting and listening to a professor who stands at podium for an hour straight." He added that the dropout rate for STEM classes is incredibly high.
The solution? To Weinberg, it's Chem101, an app specifically designed for the STEM field so that professors can actively engage their students during lectures.
"When you look at a company like Facebook and Snapchat, they spend an inordinate amount of time and money pouring over every single interaction in their apps. You just don't see that in classroom education apps," Belyayev said. "That's what we're trying to change. We're increasing the quality of interaction between the professor and the student."
Of course, attempting to overhaul the education system won't be easy. Some challenges include the education market's slow sale cycle, according to Weinberg. Even so, the duo have been making great strides with the number of app downloads, and they say they've seen positive responses from students. According to a poll based on 1,140 students who used 101's pilot program, Weinberg says, 77 percent of respondents preferred Chem101 over existing courseware.
"You can see the moment when the student understands the material," Belyayev said. "It's a very tangible and beautiful moment."
As for future projects, Weinberg and Belyayev are looking to expand into the K-12 curriculum and to partner with institutions. Although their main focus is chemistry in higher education, the founders will be looking into tackling other STEM fields like physics and math.