STEM-Trek: An Entrepreneurial Journey

At the StartupHPC Meetup, November 17, 2014, STEM-Trek Founder Elizabeth Leake described how this global, grassroots, nonprofit organization was formed, and its unique business model that involves crowd-sourcing social capital to solicit donated travel points and other services so that scholars from underrepresented groups and regions can attend high-tech conferences. Beneficiaries are encouraged to pay-it-forward, and can do so in a variety of ways. While some have volunteered to help less fortunate people from their home communities, others have supported STEM-Trek in more creative ways.

STEM-Trek’s first beneficiary, Wa Yuan (Northwestern University, Materials Science PhD) believes that the challenge of finding meaningful employment has as much to do with WHO you know, as WHAT you know. She developed a business networking tool called Scitivate that is being used by the SC14 Broader Engagement (BE) program to pair mentors with protégés and to give protégés a way to expand their professional networks long after the conference is over. Leake is Deputy Chair of the SC14 BE program.

Composite photograph

Wa Yuan’s SC12 treasure hunt.

Socially-responsible STEM

When STEM-trek scholars pause to help others who struggle with the technical interfaces they need to find work or to perform in the workplace, the exchange is useful for everyone. The people they help gain useful skills and a better understanding of how STEM impacts their lives, and the volunteer gains empathy for others—especially members of the workforce who are adapting to disability or aging. In doing so, they become more considerate future innovators.

Are you thinking of starting a business in the HPC arena? Watch for future StartupHPC Meetups.

Top photo: STEM-Trek Founder Elizabeth Leake (UW-Milwaukee), Olympic Heavyweight IBO Champion Danell “Doc” Nicholson (Chicago-based youth advocate and athletic trainer), and Wa Yuan (Scitivate) at the STEM-Trek Builds Community Friendraising Event during the IEEE eScience’12 conference in Chicago, Illinois-US.

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