Last week the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the Milken Family Foundation announced the winners of the 4th annual Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition. The competition, which attracts ideas from around the world, is a business plan competition aimed at using innovation to improve education.
The graduate school competition for education start-ups awards $150,000 to education entrepreneurs who are changing the game for public schools.
“We started the business plan competition to address the issue of how can we support entrepreneurs from a research based University,” said Bobbi Kurshan, U-Penn’s executive director of Academic Innovation and the leader of the Milken-Penn Competition, on The Cycle Thursday. “What we were looking for in the 10 finalists were companies that had three attributes: One, they were going to make a difference. Two, they could be scaled up, and three, they were addressing a problem that needed to be solved in education, that technology could help them solve. Autism Expressed fit all of those categories.”
Autism Expressed, one of this year's four winners, "fit all of those categories," Kurshan said.
The company is dedicated to helping autistic students work at their own pace and provide them with marketable digital skills.
While many people are able to learn and understand the digital world through our everyday lives, whether that be communicating with friends and family or at our jobs, that might not always be the case for autistic students, explained Michele McKeone, founder of Autism Expressed, on The Cycle.
“So we create a highly synthesized system that teaches those skills incrementally,” she said.
By winning this competition Autism Expressed hopes to “mobilize this large and growing population,” McKeone added. “The graduate school of education provides so many supportive services and winning this competition is going to allow us to now scale out our products so we can begin to serve families and get our product into the hands of those who really need it the most.”