ORT Bulgaria student Stoyan Iliev’s entrepreneurial acumen has helped his team to win the European Social Innovation Camp in Brussels.
In just one day, Stoyan and his four team-mates “ﾓ none of whom had met before “ﾓ devised an ingenious response to the social problems of food supply, supply chain issues and health nutrition.
Their stackable boxes containing soil, vegetable seeds and nutrients, as well as electronic sensors to monitor growth and minimise human intervention, impressed judges at the 24-hour marathon challenge, which featured 61 competitors from 14 European countries.
Stoyan attributed his success to the entrepreneurial experience gained by participating in the virtual business “Leader Consult Ltd”?, part of an extra-curricular enterprise education programme which was introduced at the Lauder-ORT Dimcho Debeljanov Jewish School in Sofia two years ago.
“Our interest in real cases in different social areas, combined with our natural interest in novelty and risk, has found a fertile environment at Leader Consult Ltd. The multilateral experience of our teacher Galina Manova, who heads the company, makes the experience very interesting and beneficial for me and the other students by using real life practice based on theoretical training,”? Stoyan said. “I am very happy with the Brussels result. It shows me that we’re on the right track with Leader Consult Ltd.”?
The school’s virtual business programme has combined good teachers, modern facilities and motivated students to produce winners in national competitions. Stoyan was one of three ORT students “ﾓ the others being Martin Kanovski and Mitko Mitkov “ﾓ who won the top three places at the National Innovation Competition, for example. But this is the first taste of international glory.
“Stoyan’s success was not a complete surprise,”? said school Principal Vessela Paldamova, who pioneered the introduction of the virtual business programme. “I know the abilities of the students, their interests and ambitions; their performance at other similar contests was, for me, an indication of more good things to come.”?
Leader Consult Ltd operates in the school’s training centre, which simulates real life business practice by having different departments for conducting various transactions. The students benefits from a variety of guest speakers and trainers, including representatives of local businesses.
Dr Emil Kalo, ORT Bulgaria Chairman and member of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, has provided training on the art of conducting business negotiations.
“The ideas that inspired us when we established this programme as a form of “ﾘlearning by doing’ are in harmony with the basic ORT principle of providing young people with high quality education that will enable them to realise their goals in life,”? Dr Kalo said. “We are giving our students confidence in business practice as well as theory.”?
Leader Consult Ltd works in a national and international virtual market with virtual businesses at hundreds of other schools with the participating students learning practical skills “ﾓ including foreign language skills “ﾓ through an interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach.
It has clearly stood Stoyan in good stead at Brussels, where he had to devise and present an innovative and viable solution to a social challenge with teammates from Spain, Norway, Belgium and Romania.
Their winning concept was the “ATARO”? automated stackable farm, which is designed to be integrated into new and existing buildings so that crops can be grown in the same place as the people who will consume them.
“These farms could be placed in the cellar or on the roof of large buildings,”? they wrote in their concept paper. “This solves the problem of transporting the food to the cities and it solves the lack of space there will be in the future for crops. Transporting food is very expensive because petrol costs are very high; this problem is solved by the ATARO farms because the food grows in the place where it will be eaten.
“The ATARO system could help young people suffering from obesity by letting them manage their own farm. Giving them the responsibility of an automated farm lets them think about healthy food. When the crops have grown they can taste the vegetables they have managed. This contributes to a better understanding of healthy food and stimulates them to change their eating style.”?
The team envisions targeting architects and construction companies with their product so that it could be incorporated into existing and new buildings with solar panels being used to generate electricity to power ancillary functions and the use of fibreglass conductors to bring sunlight down into basement growing areas.
The judging panel gave Stoyan’s team first place, describing their concept as “innovative, comprehensive and well thought-out”?. Jeannette Weisschuh, Director Education Initiatives, Hewlett Packard (HP) Office of Global Social Innovation, who chaired the judging panel, said: “It was amazing to see how professionally they presented their solutions after having only worked on it for a day. Unbelievable.”? HP was the main sponsor of the competition, which was organized by Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE) with the European Commission.