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Still Rolling Out The Prototype: Station F Hosts ChangeNOW Summit

Still rolling out the prototype: Station F hosts ChangeNOW summit

By GSS correspondents
American School of Paris

PARIS — Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus, opened its doors to the public Friday and Saturday for a summit of innovators hoping to solve the world’s problems, from dirty oceans and urban farming to boring high schools.

‘If you have hundreds of innovations, but none of them spread, are you really making change? I would say no,” said Saku Tuominen, 40, founder of HundRED, an organization whose mission is to help schools change by seeking and sharing inspiring innovations in K12 education.

A total of 1,600 people purchased tickets for the two-day event, with 600 people attending on Saturday, according to Anne-Coline de Beauregard, project manager for ChangeNOW.

Seating is open at the main hall stage at Station F on Saturday. Photo by Neil Francis/ASP.

Despite the excitement expressed by speakers and presenters on Saturday, a visit to Station F showed that it was clearly still rolling out its own prototype.

A main and a master stage in the enormous building, a renovated rail station once known as Halle Freyssinet, hosted speakers who gave talks on topics such as the educational revolution, agricultural development, and food security.

An exhibit hall hosted 41 small entrepreneurial start-ups, all bent on using technology to help advance society, including creating a better dishwasher, sensors that help consumers track their recycling and a virtual reality headset aimed at the visually impaired. The vibe was optimistic, a feeling of discovery and innovation.

However, a short walk outside the main hall of Station F revealed empty office spaces beyond the main hall, decorated with the logos of large corporations such as Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Microsoft, but with no humans to be seen. The effect was that of a cold, corporate landscape, with construction equipment in plain sight next to long, empty stretches of glass.

A large free-form sculpture decorated the exhibit hall. Photo by Patsy Fetzer/ASP.

Still, inspiration was abundant inside the main hall where innovators dreamed about big solutions to big problems.

“There is no way to overcome these hurdles (facing education) unless we empower our children and make them able to basically be confident and be able to collaborate,” said Yazid Arifi, co-founder of the Ecole Démocratique de Paris. 

A man whose views and ideas represent the rapidly and drastically changing attitude towards education, Arifi advocated for the personalization of education, letting students work according to their own abilities, and letting students decide when they are ready to work at a more advanced level.

The ChangeNow summit was one of Station F’s first public events. Photo by Patsy Fetzer/ASP.

“When asked whether they think that our current education system covers the necessary skills to succeed in the 21st century, do you know how many people out of one hundred said yes?” asked Tuominen, who also presented alongside Arifi.

He answered his own question with one word: “Zero.”

Featured photo: Student Mckayla Wehrli, left, sets up a camera to take a timelapse video during a visit to Station F in Paris on Saturday, Sept. 30. Photo by Reagan Meek.

—This story was written by Aelys Trouve and Thomas Neocleous and reported by Charlotte Bawol, Ella Titterington, George Furr, Josephine McNaughton, Kosta Lovato, Liam Hoy, McKayla Wehrli, Neil Francis, Patsy Fetzer, Pranav Sreedar, Reagan Meek, Sophia Sterckxx, Santiago Dysli, Theodore Galazommatis, and Vignesh Sreedhar.



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