Students discuss problem-solving after the student presentations Tuesday in Munster.
Although each student has proposed their own problem, they will eventually work in groups. So LaFlech asked them to rank their top three issues after they had all been presented.
The classroom is project-based learning that takes students on a comprehensive journey of starting a business. At the end, LaFlech said, there will be a “Shark Tank” style competition and the opportunity to enter a national pitch competition to potentially earn some seed money.
To be part of the program, students had to have completed four business courses, so most of the 40 or so students are juniors and seniors. LaFlech said the incubator counts as a comprehensive entrepreneurship course by Indiana standards.
Students are treated more like employees than students in the incubator. Each day, they review their progress from the previous day and report back to LaFlech as if she was their boss rather than their teacher.
Even the room itself is set up to foster an entrepreneurial mindset. There are five sets of tables and chairs with 40-inch screens attached to each. Two think tanks – or conference rooms – have 75-inch flat-screen TVs for students to meet with mentors or set up other meetings.
The Incubator’s classroom offers two private reflection rooms for private discussions.
LaFlech works in the area she calls the “Brain Bar” where students can come chat, do some research, or just take a brain break. Students can only ask for help after they have “asked for three” first, whether it is mentor, data or research. She wants them to step out of their comfort zone to find answers on their own.