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SENsationalSTEM START Camp on February 15 in Microsoft Teams

On February 15, over 80 students with special educational needs and their teachers from Estonia, Finland and Latvia gathered online to learn about entrepreneurship. The event, called START Camp, was the kickoff for the SENsationalSTEM  project  where students find their strengths and empower themselves through entrepreneurship. START Camp helped participants get acquainted with each other and start learning about business.  

“Using digital tools to organize an international project is a challenge, but also an opportunity. All student teams have an assigned teacher team who supports them” said Meelis Joost, SENSationalSTEM project manager from Estonian Chamber of People with Disabilities. “I hope this will be an extraordinary experience for all,” he added. 

At START Camp, the Latvian, Estonian and Finnish students started forming  “student companies'' with the support of teachers and project staff. Newly created groups chose spirit animals for their teams and discussed prospective business ideas that they would like to pursue. 

“Youth with special educational needs has more potential than they often get credit for and some participants showed that already in START Camp,” said Nella Kelkka, Haaga-Helia’s project coordinator. “As a society, we should focus more on what these kids are capable of instead of the different obstacles they have compared to their peers.The main goal of this project is to encourage the students to find their strengths and how to use them in an entrepreneurial context.”

Lecturers from Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences and Junior Achievement Finland explained the basics of SWOT analysis and business model canvas which is international standard practice for successful business planning. At the end of the day, students learned initial entrepreneurial attitudes, work life skills and personal financial management basics. 

Reflecting on the day, most students expressed interest and excitement about the project, although more than a half also reported being tired after a long day. Students were also content with their newly formed teams, saying they felt belonging and respected among their international teammates. “It's a little bit hard to communicate because of language barriers, but I hope that it will be better next time,” wrote one of the participants. 

SENsationalSTEM is a project where students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) learn about entrepreneurship in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This is a two-year project that aims to involve 80 Latvian, Estonian and Finnish students with special educational needs, train 20 teachers and attract 20 mentors to provide support to business students. As a result, 5 international student companies will be created, which will be ready to start real operations, as well as simulations of 7 companies.

SENsationalSTEM is funded by European Union Interreg Central-Baltic Programme.