This School Could Solve our STEM Problem
Nestled in the tech corridor of Northern Virginia is a private school, set to open in September, aimed at future engineers and scientists. It’s one of a handful of programs recently launched in the DC area that’s catering to kids interested in all things STEM and to parents who want to customize their education.
Ideaventions Academy will offer a full-day curriculum of engineering and math to kids in grades 4-7. Juliana and Ryan Heitz wanted to launch the school after seeing their own son’s curiosity in math and science at a young age. About $750k has been invested to build the new 10,500 SF school, which will launch with 20 kids. The couple has spent the last four years offering engineering and math enrichment classes in Oakton to kids ages 3-13 who may be homeschooled or go to regular schools but want more robust courses. Ideaventions Academy will offer something public schools can’t—full immersion in STEM.
This future cafe will have small, moveable tables and feature locally grown and sourced foods. Ideaventions will add more grades (8th is next) each year and is working on a getting a national accreditation. Kids have to pass an IQ test and be observed in a group setting to gauge their genuine interest in STEM to be admitted. The classes, limited to 10, are taught in one hour, 25 minute blocks and range from math, science and the humanities to computer science, engineering, PE, art and music. Each day starts with a 30-minute nature walk (or run) to clear heads.
This is where Ryan and Juliana offered the enrichment classes. Ryan says the Reston location was chosen for its nature trails and proximity to hundreds of tech companies. The plan is to invite companies to start conversations about internships and exposing kids to their tech experts. Juliana admits that one of the biggest challenges is diversity. About two-thirds of the applicants are boys and she’s hoping to have a solution for attracting more girls.
The school’s design inspiration came from 1776 and Silicon Valley startups and includes this future collaboration space. Ryan and Juliana, who have two sons who will attend the school, come from tech backgrounds, graduating from Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology in ‘93. Juliana then went to MIT and worked in management consulting. Her career also includes working at Cyveillance from its early days and through the bust, and in tech and capital markets at Fannie Mae. She’s been at Ideaventions full-time since ’13.
Ryan studied environmental science at UVA and then had a job helping the military figure out its environmental impact. He also worked on a NASA grant that took him on a mission measuring tropical rainfall in Brazil. He eventually came back to the US and worked in environmental consulting and geographic information systems. He left his IT career to be a stay-at-home dad, helping his first grade son, who was struggling with his own scientific curiosities that weren’t being answered at school.