Editor's note: One of Google’s goals is to support a global startup community that is inclusive, accessible, and equitable. The founders we support through programs like the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund are often using their unique perspectives to solve problems and build generational wealth within their communities. In this Hispanic Heritage Month, we highlight Thimble.io founder Oscar Pedroso and Innovare co-founder Adrián J. (AJ) DeLeón who, together with Innovare co-founders Nicholas Freeman and Fernando DeLeón, are leveraging technology to drive lasting change for students, educators, and communities.
Innovation that empowers: leveraging technology and AI to improve education
How Innovare and Thimble.io, two Latino-led startups, are supporting schools and educators with technology and AI tools
Tapping into the power of emerging innovations in STEM education, data analytics and AI, the startups Innovare and Thimble.io, recipients of the Google for Startups Black & Latino Founders Funds, are working to improve schools and student outcomes.
Innovare: Using data and AI-driven analytics to streamline leadership operations
Innovare uses data to help school leaders make key decisions, like how to better train staff or what areas to invest in.
It builds custom dashboards that integrate a school’s data in one place to give education leaders a better understanding of the issues affecting their schools and the most effective solutions to implement.
Innovare is building an AI-powered product to help education leaders make smarter decisions across a wide range of issues. Using the platform, teachers will be able to model interventions to improve school attendance, and choose the one with the most likely chance of success. They will also be able to understand the impact of new advanced placement courses on students’ college admission rates, and have their data/dashboards flag individual students who could use some additional support. In collaboration with teams from the Google for Startup Cloud Program and Google for Education, Innovare is working to make sure any large language models used are safe by design and students’ information is protected. Innovare’s vision is driven by experience. AJ DeLeón, one of Innovare’s co-founders, used to work as a data strategist at Chicago Public Schools. In the case of a challenging merger between schools, the parents of one school didn’t want students from the other school to be integrated because, as AJ recalls, “they feared [the new students] would lower scores.”
However, comprehensive data showed that in fact the new students would add value to the school in many different ways. Data helped bridge the divide among the parents, and in the end, helped make the merger a success. AJ describes how, after strategically leveraging data, the school was able to grow, fundraise, and is now one of the most successful schools in Chicago.
This experience showed him how data is crucial when making decisions in a complex education environment where stakes are high, and how it can help steer people in the right direction and identify solutions. “When you show people the data, they have to act on it,” AJ states.
Thimble.io: Equipping the workforce of the future with the help of technology and AI
Thimble.io helps bridge the gap in STEM education by creating curriculums and kits with hands-on STEM projects for students and teachers. These projects foster STEM literacy, and promote knowledge of fields such as robotics, engineering, and Web 3.0. The startup has already helped more than 50,000 students across 300 schools and 48 school districts.
Thimble.io is working to answer teachers’ growing need for AI proficiency by adding AI kits and programs to the Thimble.io curriculum. For the startup’s Founder and CEO, Oscar Pedroso, this is imperative. “We’ve talked to teachers where this [use of AI in school districts] has been banned and they are not convinced that that was necessarily the right move… Our goal is to be able to educate teachers about how to effectively use AI,” says Oscar.
In addition to classes on AI, Thimble.io plans on developing products that integrate AI into the curriculum experience. Oscar explains that, eventually, students using Thimble.io STEM kits would be able to ask questions such as “give me ten ways I can use this light sensor that I used to build this robot to build a different thing.”
In Oscar’s experience, both as a student and as a teacher “it all starts like that, you start asking questions, then you read about something and then you realize ‘oh this is really cool.’” For Oscar, it’s about “giving them the freedom to ask questions that they may not normally ask.”
From fostering curiosity and a passion for STEM, to empowering principals and staff to make data-driven decisions, AI is being used by diverse innovators around the country to tackle challenges in education and ensure a brighter future for our children.
To learn more about Google’s education-related efforts see our Education blog here. You can also read about recent updates to ensure safer learning at school and at home and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging.
For another example of how AI is positively affecting education outcomes, read Dean Dara Byrne’s OpEd about improving graduation rates at John Jay College.