FlexFactor Finals Showcase Student Innovation

Finalists present their invention, the Sung Sleeve for treating shin splints

On December 7th I had the pleasure of being a panel judge for the inaugural FlexFactor Finals. An initiative spun out of the NextFlex advanced manufacturing institute in North San Jose, FlexFactor is a month-long program that exposes high school students to the world of high tech while teaching them invaluable business skills.

In its second year, the FlexFactor program involved more than 2,000 high school students. The program is run as a multi-part incubator and training curriculum. Students start the program by touring a local advanced manufacturing facility. For the past two years of the program, the tour was hosted by Jabil Blue Sky Center in San Jose, which has become increasingly engaged in the initiative. Students are then grouped into small teams where they learn the basics of creating a successful business plan. They are then assigned to research problems focused around human health and performance and each team develops a device to solve the chosen probem, using the flexible hybrid electronics. The teams then develop a viable business model for their products and conduct a presentation of the product and the plan. Students receive college credit from the San Jose City/Evergreen Community College District for participating in FlexFactor.

I was excited to be involved in the culmination of the program as a panelist, reviewing teams as they compete in a “shark-tank” style environment.  This year’s FlexFactor Finals represented thirteen of the best teams from six local high schools. All the details on the teams and the ideas are in the FlexFactor news release.

Some of the business ideas that students come up with are truly astonishing. For instance, a group from Lincoln High School created a way to prevent SIDS in infants by developing a baby “onesie” that could detect heartrate, breathing rate, and body temperature, sending an instant alert to sleeping parents if vitals go below normal levels. Another team designed a patch that could detect whether a skin growth was potentially cancerous based on a chemical reaction that provided a color indicator. Seeing these bright students come up with such truly thoughtful and useful products was inspiring and made being a judge that much more difficult.

The best part is that FlexFactor is here to stay. NextFlex is looking for more employers interested in participating in this great program, so we encourage you to get your organization involved! Please email me or call 408 535-4835 for information on participating in 2018.