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May 26, 2015 | Tom Ballard

Inquiry Technologies making steady progress, gaining traction

Inquiry Technologies(EDITOR’S NOTE: With the 20th annual “Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit” opening later today in Johnson City, it seemed appropriate to post an update on a Northeast Tennessee start-up previously profiled on

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Scott Stuckey of Inquiry Technologies, LLC says the Kingsport-based start-up is making steady progress and gaining traction with its approach to address an increasingly diverse population of students who learn in very different ways.

It had been six months since we talked to the company’s Chief Technology Officer whom we first met in Nashville at last year’s “Southland” conference. We published an article on the start-up in August.

“We finished our Phase I project at the end of June and purposely decided to take time before submitting the follow-on Phase II application,” Stuckey said, referencing a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Delaying was a good call on our part,” he said, explaining that it gave Inquiry Technologies time to prepare a very strong proposal. The Phase II application was submitted on January 30 and information regarding the tentative award should be forthcoming in the next month or so.

The Phase I project, which involved more than 300 middle school science students, showed that the company’s use of screencasting technology, appropriately named InquiryCast™ (patent pending), leads to significantly higher gains in knowledge integration, heightens motivation, and improves on-task behaviors. InquiryCast™ was also preferred by a majority of students and teachers when compared to other forms of assessment used in the study.

Inquiry Technologies recently learned that the company has been recommended for funding for a second SBIR Phase I award from the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural and Community Development Division.

“The InquiryCast™ tool has impacted student learning, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and it is also our contention that enabling teachers with similar technology will improve the quality of feedback provided to students and ultimately lead to even higher gains in learning,” Stuckey notes.

He goes on to point out that rural homes often lack a general understanding about career and educational opportunities in STEM and study after study have shown that jobs in this sector will be the most coveted and highest paid for the foreseeable future, yet rural communities trail the rest of the nation not only in attracting these types of jobs, but also in filling those that are required to provide essential services to the community.

“The Digital Progress Report is our attempt to stimulate interests, understanding, and participation with STEM among rural parents, their children and teachers without regard to connectivity or availability of computer equipment in the home,” Stuckey said. “Inquiry Technologies feels that showing parents their children’s active engagement with STEM activities performed at school will help stimulate vital conversations and ultimately open a few doors that were previously considered shut. While the company awaits word on the NSF Phase II application, it is continuing to pursue several different initiatives.

Stuckey is working with the Niswonger Foundation, known for its commitment to educational innovation. Their efforts with the foundation are two-fold.

“We are introducing InquiryCast™ to numerous classrooms served by the foundation in an effort to help students better express their understanding for science and engineering practices,” he said. The technology is also being used to help document some of the achievements that the Niswonger Foundation has made with so many teachers and students in Northeast Tennessee.

An InquiryCast™ pilot project is also scheduled to take place with the Virtual High School (VHS) – a pioneer in distance learning and one of the largest providers of K-12 online courses. The company is also working in association with UNC-TV in an effort to provide students with a highly innovative way of creating digital stories regarding STEM.

Stuckey says an SBIR award from a second agency provides a lot of validation regarding our company’s overall goals and objectives.

“We think we are on the verge of generating a lot of traffic for our product, and ultimately improving the educational experience for a very large number of students,” he says.

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