TechConnect West Virginia, a statewide economic development coalition based in South Charleston, is partnering with the WV HIVE Network to make two outstanding programs come to life in southern West Virginia. Through funding made available by the West Virginia Development Office, TechConnect West Virginia is supporting a reoccurring entrepreneur networking and competition gathering called Common Grounds Pitch Event, as well as an entrepreneurial development program called Next Generation Entrepreneur Academy. The Common Grounds Pitch Event happens the first Monday of every month at the WV HIVE located on the WVU Tech Campus, Innovation Building in Beckley, WV. Pitch Participants and the Community come together to enjoy coffee and donuts while listening to new innovative business ideas. Each pitch presentation is limited to 3 participants a month for 10 minutes and the community gives their feed-back for 5 minutes after each pitch. Because of TechConnect West Virginia, the winner of each competition will be given $500 to spend on the business need of their choosing. This added monetary incentive will undoubtedly increase competitive ideas, and innovative solutions for Southern WV small business. In order to compete, the participant must RSVP to the Director of the WV HIVE, Joe Carlucci at email@example.com the previous month to lock in their seat to pitch. We also ask the community to RSVP through our Meetup, or Facebook accounts so we have plenty of donuts and coffee for everyone. The second program TechConnect West Virginia’s support is making possible is the Beckley Stratton Middle School’s STEAM Technology Academy Afterschool Pilot Program. Stratton students will be challenged to find solutions to problems they believe a business could solve, and submit a business plan reflecting that solution. Students will work in a simulated and innovative work place to gain skills to help them become an entrepreneur or improve their soft skills to join the workforce themselves. As a part of the program, students will use resources including the One-Button Lab to produce commercials, the Coding Lab to use Raspberry Pi and various coding platforms for game design, robotics and more. Students will learn how to incorporate technology into wearable garments in the Wearable Lab, and with the use of the 3D printer, prototypes can be produced quickly and designs will be accelerated to mimic the energy of a start-up. Students will learn website design and use some of those skills to assist businesses in the community. The afterschool program, initially started through Beckley Area Foundation funding, has been designed so students will be able to apply what they have learned at school to real life applications like finding a job or starting a company. Program Director, Vickie Webb’s, vision is to help students prepare for their future in the STEM (STEAM) fields or make a decision to attend college early on. This partnership strives to establish more collaborative partnerships with local colleges, businesses, organizations and schools that will steer students to high paying jobs in the STEAM fields and establish entrepreneurialism as a defined career path. “TechConnect is pleased to partner with the WV HIVE Network on programs that encourage and build a culture of entrepreneurship, both in our communities and in our schools,” said Anne Barth, TechConnect West Virginia’s executive director. “This partnership fits well with TechConnect’s mission to help encourage West Virginians of all ages to start and grow businesses in our local communities.” An additional Saturday program is sponsored by the Community Transformation Project/Muster Project and through partnerships with The WV HIVE Network, NASA SEMAA, TechConnect West Virginia, Southern WV Robotics Club, and local community members. Students will learn robotics, coding, entrepreneurship skills, as well as familiarize themselves with the technology available at The HIVE. This program is free for students K-12. Parents and students can find out more about this program, and potential future expansions by contacting Joe Carlucci, WV HIVE Network Director.