89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
A unique opportunity to exercise creativity: an entrepreneurial workshop for Research Experiences for Undergraduates participants
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
Daphne LaDue, CAPS/Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Participants in the National Weather Center Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (REU) were given opportunity exercise their creativity in a new entrepreneurial team workshop. The impetus for creating this workshop had at least three sources. First, over the years, professors and others writing reference letters for REU applicants have sometimes commented that they do not have a basis upon which to judge the creative potential of their students. Perhaps traditional forms of meteorology coursework do not commonly incorporate creative activities. Second, the PI and Director of this REU program recently had opportunity to lead the conversion of a NOAA & NCIM Public-Private Partnership Workshop to a distance education module. Attending the live NOAA & NCIM workshop was enlightening to organizers as well as participants: The private sector in meteorology is far more diverse than many in the public and academic sector realized. These two forces have occurred over the third factor, an ongoing, background discussion within the field of meteorology about job outlooks and growth of the private sector.

To increase exposure to the wide variety of careers available in the private sector, and to give participants a rare opportunity to exercise creativity, an entrepreneurial team activity was created for the 2007 NWC REU program. The activity was repeated in 2008. Teams used a business plan template shortened from one used in the University of Oklahoma's business college to take an idea that would solve some kind of problem or pain related to meteorology and create a business plan that they then pitched to the remaining participants. The remaining REU participants and director posed as venture capitalists with unlimited funds. Each plan was rated on a 5-point scale for creativity and voted on whether or not to fund. Of the six business pitches given over the past two years, four were relatively straight-forward applications of weather information. Those four pitches received nearly unanimous votes for funding. Interestingly, two business plans one each year were particularly creative. Although those two were unanimously voted most creative, they were not funded.

A relatively light evaluation was done in 2008 that detected some changes in attitudes toward the private sector. Shifts took place in both directions, cementing for one participant the appeal of the academic sector but increasing appeal of the private sector for another. Partnering with someone in the private sector might further enhance this activity and give participants opportunity to learn from someone with work experiences and insights about what may be the fastest growing sector in meteorology.

Supplementary URL: