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Jeff Kilpatrick says he has 144 heroes, and they’re all under the age of 15.

The Port Richmond art teacher at the Memphis Street Academy spends his time teaching his 144 middle schoolers how to harness entrepreneurial skills through art — and now, because of a pitch he made to a room of 100 people tonight, he has $5,000 to realize his dreams for his Philly Artrepreneurs program.

Kilpatrick was the winner of SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurship in Education) 4.0, an annual event presented by PhillyCORE Leaders, a group of education leaders collaborating to come up with ideas to better education in the city. Here’s how SEED 4.0 worked: Representatives from five education startups had three minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges who then asked questions, and after each pitch, the crowd voted for their favorite pitch. The following people served as judges:

  • Chris Angelini, high school English teacher
  • Bill Green, chair of the School Reform Commission
  • Stacy Holland, executive director of the Lenfest Foundation
  • Ryan Stewart, executive director of the Office of School Improvement and Innovation at the School District

The $5,000 in prize money came from sponsors PECO, Oxford Mills and the Philadelphia School Partnership, as well being crowdfunded by the attendees who purchased $25 tickets.

Here’s a look at the five startups:

Philly Artrepreneurs (winner)

What it does: The organization would be a company based within the Memphis Street Academy that would give students the experiences of creating and designing their own products like t-shirts, posters and books. Each student would pick a charity and then sell their products online — a third of the money would go to the charity, a third would go to the student in the form of scholarship money, and a third would go continuing to support Artrepreneurs.

Why it matters: The after-school program for fifth through eighth graders would give kids a way to realize that art can be more than just a hobby. Through it, they can learn art, critical thinking, business skills, finance, computer science and more.

Why it needs funding: Kilpatrick said the funding will be used to purchase computers, a scanner, a printer, software and a stipend for visiting artists to come in and complete workshops with the students.  


What it does: GAINS is a learning system that makes Applied Behavior Analysis, an instruction system for children with autism, accessible and affordable. GAINS allows a single Board Certified Behavior Analyst to design personalized instructional programs for dozens of children, view comprehensive data on the results of instruction and adjust each child’s instruction accordingly. The instructional programs are delivered via an app.

Why it matters: Many families with autistic children can’t afford to pay a certified analyst to create individualized programs for their child. This program would allow one analyst to create programs for many kids and deliver their personalized plans through an app that the children’s family or teachers can bring to life.

Why it needs funding: In order to roll out the app out of a prototype stage, organizers are looking to hire an expert programmer to build the app.


What it is: This organization is a new accelerator that aims to bring together community members to realize curriculum ideas. They are partnering with teacher-led #BoysWriteNow and #GirlsOnFire, which supports local boys and girls interested in creative writing, to solidify a Young Writer’s Guild and publish a creative writing activity journal.

Why it matters: The organizers realize that textbooks are becoming quickly irrelevant as content students need to learn evolves at a fast pace. This accelerator would bring together youth to work together to create a new, immersive creative writing curriculum that can be distributed to all schools and works with fifth grade core standards.

Why it needs funding: Organizers hope to pay a stipend to the 20 youth they’re bringing in. Funding would also support printing and shipping costs.


What it is: This organization wants to help Philadelphia high school students better prepare for the SAT/ACT by creating a free site called www.PhillyLovesVocab.com. The free site will curate stories from local news about topics that students are interested in that also use SAT/ACT vocabulary words. From there, curators will highlight and define the vocab words so that students can use them to learn while reading an article.

Why it matters: Most students cram for the SAT. But this free tool would give high school students in Philadelphia the ability to begin studying sooner and for shorter periods of time. Instead of cramming, they could read one article a day while learning a number of new vocabulary words.

Why it needs funding: Organizers would like to get to the point where they can pay curators to pull in local content that’s ripe with vocabulary words that students can study.


What it is: SnapSolver is a mobile app that teaches students how to solve math problems using a photo of the problems. Students snap a photo of problem they’re struggling with, and SnapSolver automatically recognizes, processes, solves and explains how to solve each problem step-by-step.

Why it matters: The technology is similar to uploading a check to be deposited via an app — the program recognizes the problem that’s anywhere from simple arithmetic to advanced calculus and then walks the student through how to do it. The goal is for it to help students who struggle with math feel empowered through learning the right process of completing problems.

Why it needs funding: Developers would like to take the app to beta and include a more robust teaching feature in which the app skips parts of the process and asks the student to fill it in.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.