10.20.23 / Education

An Idea That Can Change the World: Encourage Gen-Z Student Entrepreneurs

Today’s Gen Z middle and high school students are passionate problem-solvers who share an important trait with the influencers who drive much of social media: their readiness to translate their passions into enterprises. That’s a perspective shared by Ann Woo, Head of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America in her latest opinion piece for Fast Company.

Ann Woo, Head of Corporate Citizenship Samsung Electronics America
Ann Woo, Head of Corporate Citizenship

Drawing on her experience leading Solve for Tomorrow, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education driver that fosters innovation and problem-solving skills among public school students through annual STEM competitions, Ann writes that Gen Z-ers “are at heart creators and consumers, tech- and social-media-savvy individuals who aspire to be ‘makers’ while sharing an innate empathy for their peers and their communities. They see the world as a continuum that cuts across the traditional structure of the subjects—science, history, art, economics—many teachers and parents expect schools to teach. And they are more in touch with national and global concepts of community than cohorts before them.”

Group of students from Princeton High School's Science to Startup program
New Jersey’s Princeton High School “Science to Startup” team created a sustainable enterprise from their 2021-2022 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM solution.

One consequence is that Gen Z students present complex challenges and opportunities for the STEM education profession. This has deep implications for keeping students engaged in STEM, and for supporting teachers with professional development programs that maintain their motivation and enthusiasm as active participants in this new education paradigm.

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As for their future employers, Ann emphasizes the importance for businesses seeking to hire this next-gen tech workforce to take action now. This entails dedicating time and resources to develop strategies and programs that encourage and harness Gen-Z’s entrepreneurial instincts.

It’s what Samsung has done through Solve for Tomorrow – which over its 14-year history has donated more than $24 million in prize packages to competition winners – and inspired a new generation of STEM savvy creators. This year, Solve for Tomorrow upped the innovation ante by adding a new award – the Rising Entrepreneurship Award – to the list of national awards.

Citing three examples of Solve for Tomorrow student projects that have morphed into ongoing “social enterprises” – businesses that continue to contribute to their local communities long after their school’s prize-winning turns, Ann offers advice for companies that want to do their part in connecting with and encouraging entrepreneurship in STEM programs in their area schools:

  • Start locally: Engage with a local school or even an area school district to find out their needs in STEM education and where your particular skill set or product mix can contribute.
  • Focus on helping translate community-focused school projects into an ongoing social enterprise: Encourage programs that can help self-fund further STEM activity; consider incorporating an employee mentorship program into this effort.
  • Include teachers in your planning: They are the change agents whose latent business development capabilities need to be nurtured.
students working with a bin of food waste and fly larvae
Princeton High School students transformed food waste and black soldier fly larvae into a variety of usable products.
soaps wrapped in brown paper
Sol Feliz soaps, one of the usable products derived from the bioremediated food waste

You can learn more about Solve for Tomorrow’s powerful impact on STEM education and Samsung’s role in advancing student entrepreneurship in Ann’s full Fast Company article.

And to learn more about the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM competition itself, which is accepting entries now through October 27, 2023, please visit samsung.com/solve.

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