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Innovation and education: UM-Dearborn partners with local startup to teach lessons in entrepreneurship

December 5, 2014

UM-Dearborn at Kidpreneur University of Michigan-Dearborn student Mo Alhindi instructs a Minecraft Technology Class at Kidpreneur.

It’s never too early to try your hand at innovation. That’s the idea behind Kidpreneur, a Wixom-based startup company that encourages entrepreneurship and provides an environment for learning. Hands-on training, online courses, workshops, professional mentorship, collaborative workspaces and, yes, the occasional gaming challenge—they’re all part of the package as CEO and founder Thanh Tran works to teach kids lessons he’s learned from founding two software companies.

Last spring, Kidpreneur went on the search for interns who were tech-savvy and could bring the company fresh ideas. Enter Emily Lerner, a computer and electrical engineering dual-major student in University of Michigan-Dearborn’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS).

Lerner loves creative problem solving and technology, a natural fit for a startup tech company like Kidpreneur. During her summer internship, Lerner instructed students, ages 7-13, in coding and web development camps. In addition, she occasionally worked on Kidpreneur’s website and wrote articles for magazines about the company.

Lerner is one of a growing number of CECS students with a connection to Kidpreneur thanks to UM-Dearborn’s Business Engagement Center (BEC). The BEC developed its relationship with Kidpreneur through the Small Company Internship Award (SCIA), a program that provides school funding to help Michigan small businesses hire students to work as interns on projects that are both beneficial to the company and academically relevant to the student.

“The partnership with Thahn and his company, Kidprenuer, embodies everything that the SCIA and BEC represent,” said Eric Bacyinski, Relationship Manager of UM-Dearborn’s Business Engagement Center. “These interdisciplinary internships provide a unique opportunity for our students to develop skillsets outside of their traditional academic program and enable them to observe and learn from a successful STEM entrepreneur.”

Since January, Kidpreneur has recruited and employed four CECS students from UM-Dearborn. Currently, two of Kidpreneur’s eight employees are UM-Dearborn students, and the company has plans to hire three to four additional students from the university. “As we are growing, we are evolving and the students are a tremendous help to our company,” said Tran.

For students like Lerner, the experience gave her real-world implementation of the skills she learned in her engineering classes. Lerner took a computer coding class at UM-Dearborn to prepare her for the work she did at Kidpreneur to teach coding logic. “You can take everything you learn in an engineering classroom and apply it in the real world,” said Lerner.

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