This CMU Startup is Reimagining the STEM Classroom

Rough Draft is excited to support 101, a Carnegie Mellon-born startup reimagining the college STEM classroom.

Rough Draft Ventures is excited to support Justin Weinberg and Igor Belyayev of 101, an EdTech startup that’s reimagining the way college students learn and engage in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) courses.

Co-founders Justin Weinberg and Igor Belyayev

The college STEM classroom hasn’t fundamentally changed in centuries. For many math and science students, the STEM experience is a passive one characterized by huge auditoriums and long, stale lectures. While response clickers and e-books have brought some technology into the classroom, these tools still rely on static content and generic multiple choice questions. Dynamic and visual subject matter like molecular structure and graphing just don’t fit these static formats, leaving many students struggling to understand the concepts: 40% of aspiring STEM majors dropout, according to the New York Times. This number jumps to a staggering 60% among pre-med majors, a statistic that is more than double the rate of other majors.

To solve this problem, 101 is building STEM-specific classroom engagement tools that promote active learning, which is when students take part in discussions or exercises during lecture.

The founders of 101 are chemistry whizzes themselves (Justin is finishing up his PhD in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University), so they’re tackling chemistry first. Combine Justin’s domain expertise with Igor’s mobile development experience at Jet.com and The Huffington Post, and you’ve got a rockstar duo. In fact, they’ve teamed up on an education app before: their last app, focused on chemistry tutoring, earned over 500,000 downloads organically.

The startup’s first product, Chem101, is an intuitive app that enables instructors to push questions to students’ personal devices and see their responses in real time during lecture. The app has chemistry-specific features like an interactive tool to build molecules for visual learning. Chem101 was successfully piloted with 2000 students across 8 universities including Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, University of Cincinnati, and Temple University this past fall. All converted to paying customers.

Here are some other stats that get us excited:

  • 40% of students said using Chem101 made them more interested in chemistry after using the product for just 2–3 weeks of their course
  • 77% said they preferred Chem101 over existing course tools, i.e. clickers
  • Students who learned Lewis structures using Chem101 performed up to 200% better compared to those who used traditional learning tools (based on pre- and post-semester testing)

We first met Justin and Igor when they were part of the Dreamit EdTech accelerator, where one of our student team members Reggie James was working on his own startup. We’ve seen them make huge strides since then, and can’t wait to see what they do next.

To learn more about 101, visit their website or follow them on Twitter. You can also drop them a note at hello@101edu.co

Stay tuned for updates!