From Capstone to Corporation

Edtech startup began at HPA

Three years ago, George Donev ’17 was a teaching assistant at the energy lab when he began to develop a new computer platform. Then-sophomore Morgan Dean ’20 found his way to the e-lab as well, using free periods to attend Donev’s class, where the two began to collaborate on the emerging platform they would soon call “Student Corner.” The pair have been working together ever since: Donev on the entrepreneurial side, and Dean as the site’s engineer and programmer. This past spring, Student Corner was the focus of Dean’s own senior capstone project.

Student Corner has now gone from capstone product to corporation—completing market research, receiving its first major investment from an accelerator, hiring staff, purchasing technology to build the site, and enjoying some high-profile victories.

The tool creates an intersection between project management, portfolio display, and teacher resource. “It’s different from anything else out there because it focuses on the students and the projects they’re making,” Donev says.

“Weblogs, networking websites, and learning management systems aren’t made for this; Student Corner is an ecosystem for students and their teachers. We built Student Corner because it was the tool we needed for our own capstone classes, and it didn’t exist.”

George and Morgan exemplify the power of ideation and entrepreneurship,” their mentor and HPA’s Capstone Coordinator Aaron Schorn says. “Like so many of us at HPA, they believe that education should empower youth, and they have created a digital platform that does just that.”

– HPA Capstone Coordinator Aaron Schorn

It makes sense that a tool created by high-school students immersed in project-based learning (PBL) could plant its flag in being a student-centered resource. “George and Morgan exemplify the power of ideation and entrepreneurship,” their mentor and HPA’s Capstone Coordinator Aaron Schorn says. “Like so many of us at HPA, they believe that education should empower youth, and they have created a digital platform that does just that.”

Both Donev and Dean are taking a gap year from college this year to focus on Student Corner. Donev’s computer science instructor at UH Hilo even quit his teaching job to join their ranks. “If real adult professionals are going to believe in this,” reflects Donev, “then we can put our studies on hold to give it our best.”

This past spring, Student Corner evidenced its power by taking the entire Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair virtual without a hitch, showcasing the work of 500 students for 150 judges. At press time, Student Corner had a team of ten paid employees, and as interest in the site continues to grow beyond Hawai‘i, so does its revenue and value.

“COVID really put an emphasis on the need for digital learning with PBL and a platform like Student Corner. There has been heightened interest with edtech in general,” Donev says, “and Student Corner has been able to grow into that demand.”