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SAP sponsored a design thinking challenge for middle school students from Oakland Unity Middle School on December 8, 2015, in conjunction with the national non-profit organization Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which helps children from low-income backgrounds find the right education and career path. Thirty students from the middle school (grades 6-8, ages 11-13 years old) attended a daylong challenge, which was held in the SAP Dublin office.

SAP has been involved with NFTE for 4 years, sponsoring hackathons, design challenges and technology forums.  SAP and NFTE share a common goal, which is to help kids from low-income families understand that they represent the technology workforce of the future.  I have been personally involved with NFTE for over six years, and now serve on their local board.  Providing guidance and mentoring to the kids has become one of my favorite ways to volunteer, because I really see the impact of SAP and our employees on the outlook young adults have on school and their careers.

The objective of this challenge was to introduce kids to the problem solving approach of design thinking, and help them use this method to build a unique mobile application. The kids were divided into teams of three and asked to create a mobile application that will improve student health by encouraging a more nutritious diet and reducing stress. The teams were asked to create a short presentation with application wireframes to share with judges at the end of the challenge.


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Fifteen SAP employees volunteered to coach the kids in preparing their business case and wireframes.  The mentors worked closely with each team, helping them use the design thinking concepts to build a solution. They also shared their backgrounds and career stories with the kids, helping them understand how they went from middle school to their current jobs at SAP.

Each of the teams created and presented a unique application that would help students eat healthier and reduce stress.  We were delightfully surprised by how creative and confident the group of young adults was in managing this business challenge. The winning team created a mobile application that provides a video platform for sharing healthy recipes, similar to YouTube, called Food-Tube. Each of the winners received an Apple computer.

Thanks to all the SAP volunteers for making the day special for our middle school guests.  We look forward to continuing our work with NFTE, helping young people get inspired and prepare for the technology challenges of the future.


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  1. Lauren Maser

    Thank YOU Dean for driving these efforts with NFTE! What a great opportunity for these students and for our employees. Thanks for sharing the details =)

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