An app aimed at connecting aspiring artists with renowned, experienced musicians who can provide valuable performance critiques via written, audio or video upload was the presentation that won the top $20,000 prize in UNT’s first Ed Tech Ascend pitch competition.
Inspired by the hit show Shark Tank®, the pitch competition – Ed Tech Ascend – offered $25,000 in prizes, including the top prize of $20,000 and a second-place prize of $5,000.
UNT M.B.A. students Michelle Schodowski and Charles Laws put forward the winning pitch.
“This competition was an amazing opportunity for us,” said Laws, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish from UNT in 2018. “This will help us get off to a great start.”
Their budding company, Denton-based Radda, is an online service that facilitates the seeking and giving of musical advice while fostering valuable connections among artists across the globe.
“Music masterclasses, where you get to study for about 20 minutes with a master in the field, are very important to the profession,” said Schodowski, who earned her bachelor’s degree in piano performance from UNT in 2018. “We wanted to take that idea and put it online to create a service where people have a way to reach out to experts in their field to get feedback. Our idea is to start with music, but then expand it to academia, arts, science, literature – we want to eventually be able to do everything.”
The second-place winner of $5,000 was Colorado-based mindSpark Learning, which proposed using their prize money for hosting two-day EdTech Summer Institutes to help train educators how to navigate various digital tools to use in their schools and classrooms to ensure students are not just bystanders to technological advances.
The Ed Tech Ascend pitch contest was designed to encourage creative individuals and teams to “sell” their product vision to judges, companies and potential investors.
The four judges were UNT President Neal Smatresk alongside Xi Leung, UNT assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management; Victor Prybutok, vice provost for graduate education and dean of UNT’s Toulouse Graduate School; and Peter Balyta, president of education technology and vice president of academic engagement and corporate citizenship at Texas Instruments.
“UNT was proud to offer our pitch competition in partnership with Edmodo to give our students and the greater educational technology community the opportunity to push their innovations forward,” said Adam D. Fein, vice president of digital strategy and innovation at UNT. “UNT is emerging as a national leader in this space, and we wanted to offer a forum for the best and brightest ideas to come to fruition.”
The competition was part of the US-China Smart Education Conference, which brought global thought leaders, technology experts, industry leaders and educators from all learning levels to Denton in March. This was the fourth year of the conference, and the first time it was hosted in the U.S. UNT co-hosted the three-day conference with Beijing Normal University.
The title sponsor for the conference was Edmodo, a subsidiary of NetDragon. Edmodo is the largest global learning community offering a communication and collaboration platform to K-12 schools targeting teachers, students, administrators and parents. Edmodo enables teachers to share content resources, distribute quizzes and assignments, and communicate with students, colleagues and parents. To date, Edmodo has over 90 million registered users in more than 400,000 schools across 192 countries.