The MIT Bootcamp brought together Joseph Jeong and Ning Shirakawa, an unlikely mix of a twenty year Wall Street veteran and a young female MBA graduate edu-preneur. It was at the Bootcamp where they discovered a common goal of disrupting education – and decided to come together to create a social-impact enterprise – and FutureHACK was born.
Growing up, Joseph and Ning were frustrated with what was being taught to them in schools. Both struggled as immigrants, but were able to identify their passions and goals early as teenagers. They decided they could teach themselves what they needed to learn outside the traditional classroom. After coming to the United States as a young child, Joseph knew that what he learned in school would not allow him to achieve his moonshot goal of one day working on Wall Street. So at thirteen years of age, before personal computers and the Internet were invented, Joseph decided to create his own daily curriculum which included watching financial programs on television, reading books by famous investors and creating his own mock investment portfolios. By teaching himself how to trade the stock market as a teenager, by the time he retired from his Wall Street career, he had worked at some of the world’s largest investment banks and had co-founded two successful investment firms.
Meanwhile Ning, a fiercely ambitious Chinese girl grew up in Japan, where she struggled to conform to the norms in local Japanese schools. In an act of rebellion, she taught herself English by sneaking into church and by rewatching Hollywood classics. Ning became the very first person in her high school to be accepted at Duke University and later graduated with an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. She went on to co-found Taktopia & Co, a successful global education business that delivers empowerment through entrepreneurship training to students around the world. Her other startup Native Mind, a business that helps learners to think, talk, and function like natives was also featured in the MIT Bootcamp MOOC, “Entrepreneurship 102: What is your Product?” on edX.org.
Despite their success, Joseph and Ning were concerned that the next generation of learners were growing up in an educational system mired in the past. They were frustrated as promising young students were missing out on vital knowledge that would allow them to find their way in a competitive, exciting new world. All they needed was something to bring their visions together.
After the intensive week at the Bootcamp, Joseph and Ning recognized their mutual ambition to overhaul the global education system. Taking cues from MIT’s innovation framework, Joseph and Ning designed FutureHACK’s program, focused on fun, interactive activities and future technologies. At their first camp at MIT in Cambridge, fifty-five students from eleven countries learned the fundamentals of innovation through Lego Mindstorms NXT, Microbits and 3D printing under the supervision of faculty from leading universities.
“We created a youth version of the MIT Bootcamps because we were self taught as teens and believe that is the perfect age to start working on moonshot goals.” said Joseph. “ We want to inspire young learners from all over the world who are dissatisfied with what schools or adults are teaching them ” added Ning. “We’re empowering our young learners to take ownership over their futures – that’s why the program is called FutureHACK.” Following the success of their initial ventures, Ning and Joseph are launching additional camps and online courses to prepare more talented young learners for success.