Austinite and University of Texas graduate Cristal Glangchai founded VentureLab to teach kids how to think like entrepreneurs using science technology engineering and math skills, and now she’s turned her work with kids into a book “Venture Girls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow’s Leaders.” (Harper, $16.99)
Glangchai knows a thing or two about being an entrepreneur. She has a doctorate from UT in among other things biomedical engineering. She started a tech company using nanoparticles to deliver medications to diseased tissue, and then was the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Trinity University in San Antonio. She started VentureLab in 2013 to bring her love of trying new things, learning from failure and getting messy to kids, especially girls in the form of camps.
The book is her way of helping parents understand why encouraging kids to be entrepreneurs is important as well as giving them activities for the encouraging.
“I really wanted to give parents a practical way to empower their kids through the entrepreneurial mindset,” she says.
The book is also full of research that has been done on girls and STEM and how kids learn in general, which is different than what they might be learning in school. Instead of teaching kids how to do well on tests, Glangchai is big on teaching kids how to think, how to be inquisitive, make a hypothesis, do research and work to solve a problem.
One statistic she loves is that 65 percent of kids in primary school won’t have jobs that we can imagine. “We have to teach kids to take ideas and make it real,” she says.
Her concern is that if we give kids only those “hard skills” that have only one answer, if we don’t teach them how to think outside the box, they might struggle at transitioning to the new job market.
“It’s the softer skills they need to be learning,” she says.
There’s a lot of focus on girls in STEM right now. We know that in elementary school, girls tend to outperform boys in science and math skills, but then in middle school and high school girls start to fall behind the boys in the class.
Some of that might be the way we teach STEM classes. Girls are motivated by a desire to help people to solve problems. Glangchai, herself, wanted to be a firefighter as a kid because of this desire to help people, not because of the science of fire. Men and boys, she says, tend to be driven by the idea of innovation or the idea of growing in power and leadership. That’s why, as a study showed, girls do better in algebra when it’s taught as a word problem versus a straight equation.
“Women are slowly making progress,” in going into STEM fields, she says, “We want to get passed STEM. Entrepreneurship helps create confident women leaders in any field.”
Glangchai advocates for teaching entrepreneurship in schools. Some schools are really good on hands-on learning, but many are not. She likens it to coding, which took about a decade to become a regularly offered class.
Entrepreneurship is also good for boys, too. Kids do well when you take them out of their comfort zones and allow them to fail. “We’re teaching kids to be curious as opposed to being afraid,” she says.
Parents can be a big part of raising young entrepreneurs, she says. “Instead of saying to their daughters: ‘don’t get your dress dirty, don’t go play in the mud,’ tell them, ‘to be adventurous, to go out and explore.’ It’s a different way of raising their daughter.”
The book gives parents many different ideas of things you can do to encourage entrepreneurship and out-of-the-box thinking. It’s things like making edible play dough, trying different formulas of slime, rethinking the ordinary Oreo or pizza slice by changing out one thing at a time.
Here are a couple activities that Glangchai especially loves and does with her own four children:
SCAMPER with Oreos
What you need:
Pen and paper
Oreo or like cookies, other food items in your pantry or fridge
Think about a sandwich-style cookie like an Oreo. Examine one.
Start brainstorming what you could do with it. Write down your ideas.
Substitute: What could you change out about this cookie? The cream? The cookie? What with?
Combine: What could you combine with the cookie to make something new?
Adapt: How could you adapt or adjust this product?
Modify: How could you change the shape, the look, the feel of the product?
Put to another use: How could you use the product for another purpose?
Eliminate: What parts could you remove?
Reverse/rearrange: How could you change the design of the cookie?
Then you get to try out making something new with your Oreo cookies and your items in the kitchen.
What you need:
Pen and paper
Imagine what you could do with leftover Legos. Draw out a new design.
Gather your Legos and experiment with different ones in your design.
Create step-by-step guide with pictures of your design on the cardboard. Make it look like the designs and instructions you get when you buy Legos.
Put the Legos and the design guide in a zip-top bag.
Then you can promote and market and sell your designs.
In June, Glangchai will be offering a workbook that will have one activity for each of the 52 weeks of the year that families can do together. The RISE (Raising & Inspiring Successful Entrepreneurs) workbook will be on Glangchai’s website, venturelab.org.
“Venture Girls” Book Release
Cristal Glangchai will be talking about her book and offering an entrepreneurial activity for families to try.
The Refinery, 612 Brazos St.
5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday