USC Marshall School of Business MBA student Josh Junker wants to breathe new life into the periodic table, a tabular display of the chemical elements.
For the past 15 years, Junker, who teaches chemistry at Irvine Valley College, has focused on how to improve science education through technology.
“For something as complicated and visual as chemistry is, teaching it is very old-fashioned,” he said.
“There are a lot of shapes, architecture and kinetics involved. But how you do you convey that with just the periodic table and a flat, static textbook? Then there’s a stigma associated with science – that it’s hard or doesn’t seem relevant. Maybe that’s because there’s no dynamic tool for teaching it.”
Junker welcomed the $50,000 in funding his company MindMeld Labs won in January at the 2012 YPrize New Media Business Plan Challenge. He also is excited to finish the company’s incorporation process, a service provided by Legal Zoom, which he also earned with the YPrize.
“Incorporating will give the company the ability to attract venture capital to help build the technical side of the business,” said Junker, whose online-learning enterprise focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is scheduled to launch this fall.
Organized by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall, the YPrize competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and faculty at USC Marshall, the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and USC School of Cinematic Arts.
The Young Presidents’ Organization and U.S. Trust sponsored the competition, which is designed to educate and prepare students for creating new business ventures and becoming entrepreneurs.
Junker and his YPrize team members Branden Wermers and Sandeep Sana plan to develop the software in time for Junker to begin testing the concept in his summer-school chemistry course. He expects to work out the kinks in time to release the software for the beginning of the next academic year.
Junker said winning the prize came as the team required some momentum and credibility as it began to seek backers, as well as “rock-star caliber Web developers and design gurus.”
For Junker, earning a USC Marshall MBA on top of the Master of Science he holds from the University of California, Santa Cruz, is a natural reach for someone interested in transforming education through new technologies.
“Education is an enormous market that’s unaddressed,” he said. “Plus there’s a social entrepreneurship element to it. MindMeld can help a lot of people.”
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