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SMART Innovation Team

Written by: SMART Innovation Team

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The mission of the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) is to catalyze innovation and excellence in learning and teaching at Harvard. HILT’s Operation Impact empowers students to become agents of change in the field of education, by providing students with resources, funding, and connections. Operation Impact’s student teams have built a runway for their innovative ideas to take off and have a measurable impact on learners of all ages globally. This blog post was created by the 2019/2020 Operation Impact Fellows of Harvard University.

During 2019-20, students of all ages throughout North America have dived head-first into hands-on innovation. In partnership with the Conrad Challenge, and coached by our Operation Impact Fellows at Harvard University, 88 teams of 13- to 18-year-olds have devoted extraordinary energy to “Transforming Education through Technology,” the competition category sponsored by SMART Technologies. Meanwhile, the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) has wrapped up its year-long Operation Impact, to encourage students to take action on their ideas to improve education.

  1. Tap into the students’ expertise. We coached high school-age entrepreneurs who had creative ideas, a passion for making a difference, and impressive machine learning and modeling skills. Prepare to be impressed by teams who have more technical facility than you do.
  2. Give them narrative, not just structure.Articulate a clear sequence of stages, in both the competition and the coaching path. Students respond better to progressive feedback than episodic check-ins.

  3. Focus on the problem. Like many real-world entrepreneurs, student teams often fall into the trap of starting with a technology and then looked for ways to apply it – the hammer hunting for a nail. Encourage them to start by asking “who has what problem?”, and only then to ideate.

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One final suggestion: coach more teams, not fewer. Thanks to SMART’s support, we were able to increase the number of teams per Fellow – and like it. Mentoring is electrifying, generating ideas from one team that you can share with the next. So jump into coaching with both feet. Your guidance could make all the difference to a generation of innovators and entrepreneurs worldwide.


Or watch this video for the output of master coaches.


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