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Can 'edu-tech' be Minnesota's next tech industry success story?

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A diverse group of educators, entrepreneurs, technology experts and business leaders is trying to jump start some innovation around education technology in Minnesota.

They're hoping the same forces that helped make the state a leader in the medical technology field can also help bring some new ideas on how to use technology in the classroom, according to Star Tribune columnist Neil St. Anthony.

Minnesota is home to several of the country's largest med tech firms, including Medtronic, Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical. The state is first in the nation in the number of jobs per capita related to medical technology, and it has 400 companies that support the biologic and biopharmaceuticals industry, according to the BioBusiness Alliance.

That success can be repeated in the "edu-tech" field because of Minnesota's “entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Steve Wellvang, a Minneapolis business attorney and one of the leaders of the local edu-tech effort.

Wellvang is one of the organizers of “Educelerate Twin Cities,” a monthly networking forum involving participants from education and industry who share ideas about innovative use of technology in schools, according to the Star Tribune. Educelerate is also active in other large cities in the country including Los Angeles and Chicago.

Wellvang is also helping to organize “Startup Weekend EDU” in early May -- an entire weekend where attendees will be brainstorming, designing and developing new edu-tech business ideas.

Attendees will spend Friday night making short pitches for various business ideas, and after the best ones are chosen, small teams will work together over the next two days to research those ideas and develop them into viable business proposals.

Teams at Startup Weekends in other cities have developed such ideas as an online adventure game for elementary students, a fitness program for students to keep track of their health, and an application that helps educators find professional development opportunities.

Startup Weekend is May 2-4 at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

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