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AT&T supports Innoventure competition with $10,000 contribution

New Mexico State University's Innoventure competition has received a $10,000 contribution from AT&T in support of a statewide program established 11 years ago.

Garrey Carruthers talks to Innoventure competitors.
New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers, then dean of the College of Business and vice president for economic development, talks to Las Cruces High School student Cindy Yeh at the 2012 Innoventure competition. Yeh's team won the competition, and she is now a sophomore at NMSU, studying genetics. (Submitted photo)

Innoventure, which is organized by NMSU's Arrowhead Center, is a program that encourages middle and high school students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve business problems. Students begin preparing for the competition in August and the final judging of their projects will take place in April 2014.

"We are thrilled to be the recipient of the generous gift from AT&T," said Innoventure director Marie Borchert. "Innoventure provides students from all across New Mexico with the opportunity to not only learn business concepts, but to apply them. It is a truly cross-curricular program merging STEM and entrepreneurship."

Cindy Yeh, whose Las Cruces High School team won the competition in 2011 and 2012, said the competition's eight-month preparation helped her hone her STEM skills, but also taught some life skills that have served her well in her studies at NMSU. A sophomore studying genetics, Yeh said her team learned valuable lessons in working together, delegating responsibility, thinking critically and creatively, doing research, and improvising with the tools at hand.

"It's very applicable to all of our fields," Yeh said. "For instance, I work in a biology lab, and sometimes we might not already have the tool we need to do something, and we might have to develop something new to work with. Innoventure helped me think about ways to solve problems."

The students are expected to design and create a functional product prototype, a strong marketing plan and a well-written and well-organized business plan. For their project that measured soil moisture levels to help farmers better manage their crop irrigation, Yeh and her teammates - Jane Kim, Julia Vulcan, Noor Muhyi and Alex Castaneda - each won a computer tablet and a $350 scholarship to NMSU.

Borchert said the program helps students understand how the things they're learning in school will be useful to them.

"Innoventure really helped me with my oral presentation skills and budget preparation, which are useful in all fields," Vulcan said. "Although I didn't enjoy the budgeting aspect very much, I learned how important it is."

Borchert said she's pleased to be able to offer the opportunity to more students through the gift from AT&T. The money will allow Arrowhead to expand student participation across the state, as well as provide participants and their families with what is often their first university experience.

Along with the annual competition, the Innoventure program also includes Camp Innoventure, a weeklong summer session where students entering sixth to eighth grade have the opportunity to learn how to start their own businesses.

"Education is key to the innovations of tomorrow and programs like Innoventure at NMSU prepare students to succeed in a global economy," said Jerry Fuentes, president of AT&T for Arizona and New Mexico. "We are proud to partner with Innoventure to help inspire the next generation."

For more information about Innoventure, visit www.innoventurenetwork.org.