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Learning in the Classroom vs Learning by Doing

April 30, 2019

Listening to teachers, taking notes, and handing in homework are traditional classroom routines for most of high schools.

At LaunchX, however, we enjoy a glimpse of our life in the future – a combination of learning with professionals and applying our skills to solve real-world problems. I’m going to take you all through several of my favorite activities at LaunchX. Let’s see how my team learned from our experiences and turned classroom knowledge into actions.

1. Market Simulation

LaunchX gave every team 30 dollars and we could spend it on any product for market simulation the next day. (Note: this activity changes a bit each year so be prepared for anything!)

Part I: Preparing for our Product!

Our team found lots of other teams want to buy breakfast foods or daily commodities. Trying to differentiate ourselves, we decided to offer some beverage for breakfast. Two of our team members have made boba before, so we decided to use the 30 dollars to buy supplies and offer homemade Boba at the market simulation!

LaunchX classroom market simulation activity

Boba Tea In Progress!

Part II: Selling Boba!

Day 2 started off with the market simulation. 15 teams were selling products ranging from authentic French crepes, trash can, toilet paper, and McDonald’s breakfast muffins! We were pretty confident about ourselves because we were the only team that offered something to drink!

Launch gave everyone 20 tickets as “money”. Our price started with 5 tickets per cup.

LaunchX market simulation setup

Our team right after we set up our table

Shout out to Omar for drawing a mini poster on iPad! Look at us advertising already!

The market simulation went A LOT faster than we expected! We had to lower our price a lot by the end to sell all the cups. Unfortunately, we did not get the best customer review. It turned out our experience in making Boba was not enough. Our boba tea and tapioca ball were not the most tasty ones.

Part III: Reflect on market simulation

We watched the original LaunchX videos about gross profit, revenues, and cost of customer acquisition before the program started. After the market simulation, founder Laurie Stach helped us calculated those figures for each team’s market simulation.

Our revenue did not go as well as we expected because of the quality of our product. Your team’s competence in building your product is really important. (Our mistake!)

We calculated all the other finance figures as well and our team ranked #5 overall.

This “real world” learning allowed SO many insights about entrepreneurship – even from the classroom in just the first couple of days!

2. Identify our opportunities

Part I: Lecture from UPenn Professor

LaunchX invited UPenn professor Dr. Vanessa Chan to speak with us about “Why Startups and New Products Fail and How to Avoid It”. She was an amazing professor we loved interacting with college professors throughout the LaunchX program.

She talked about the importance of brainstorming ideas and conducting market research to make sure that we were addressing a real need. Market pull is the drive, not technology push!

Prof. Chan used Juicero as an example. It was a ridiculously expensive juice maker that attracted huge investment. It was shut down in late 2017 after a video comparing Juicero squeezing juice and using hand to squeeze juice went viral.

Part II: Our group’s brainstorming

Our group used sticky notes and put all our ideas up on the glass wall of Pennovation (fabulous space for incubating ideas btw!). As we posted our ideas on Snapchat, “bubbling stamp pen” turned out to be the most popular one.

LaunchX team brainstorming with post-it notes

Our group’s idea wall!

We are creating a product that helps students take multiple choice test more efficiently. The stamp pen fills in and erases the bubbles instantly, saving time to fill in the scantrons in time-constraint tests.

Part III: Market Research

We don’t want to be like Juicero, so we tried to conduct as much market research as possible before prototyping. We interview 60 UPenn students and received around 50 survey responses. We asked copy centers as well because they are in charge of scantrons machines. After confirming that there is a real need, we tried to determine our early adopters.

LaunchX founder Laurie Stach stressed the importance of determining a single group of people that desperately needs the product as the earliest customers. After coming out with more than 20 customer personas, we determined our early adopters. It was a really fun process!

3. Seek Resources, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Everyone, including LaunchX members and all the speakers, encouraged us to seek help. Do not be afraid to ask strangers for their opinions. Do not be scared to talk to administrators and policy makers!

LaunchX students with speaker David Henderson
Selfie With David Henderson, one of our amazing speakers!

Although I’m a outgoing person, I found asking strangers for help terrifying. I spent hours staying at my room and meditating how to talk to strangers.

My task today was to find different Scantrons at UPenn so that my team can test out prototype. I sketched out my route because class ends at 2:30pm and I need to go to four buildings by 5:00pm.

motivation map of LaunchX student

My motivation map for myself!

I went to the Engineering building first. After walking back and forth in a empty corner for twenty minutes, I went up to ask a person wearing UPenn cloth. Lucky me, that empty corner was right next to the copy room and the man was in charge of all the machines, including scantrons! Because summertime was not busy, he agreed that we could use the Scantron machine any time during their office hours!

After my first success, I went to Penn Med school, nursing school, law school, and registrar looking for different kinds of Scantrons.

It’s been two weeks in LaunchX and we learned a lot both in and outside of class. Stay in tuned and hope you guys can join the LaunchX family in LaunchX clubs or the coming summers!

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