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Tampa edtech Knack partners with Florida Poly to build STEM skills statewide

Margie Manning

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Florida Polytechnic University has partnered with Tampa-based Knack to help high school students throughout the state stay on track with their studies during the Covid-19 crisis.

Knack is an educational technology company that uses its software platform to connect students who need tutors with other students who can provide tutoring services.

The partnership with Florida Poly is the first of its kind, said Samyr Qureshi, Knack co-founder and CEO.

Samyr Qureshi

“We’re building a network of tutors from a college campus very intentionally and then connecting them with high school students across the state for virtual tutoring,” Qureshi said. The focus is on upper-level math courses, including calculus, for high school students, especially those who may be interested in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] careers.

“We worked closely with Florida Poly to hand-select a dozen virtual learning assistants. These are students at Florida Poly who have excelled in their coursework and have been minted by faculty and staff to be part of this program. They’ve been additionally trained on the benefits of being a tutor both by Knack and by Florida Poly,” Qureshi said.

Florida Poly purchased a pool of hours from Knack for the program and the tutors are 1099 contractors through Knack. Knack and Florida Poly co-manage the program. There are multiple benefits, Qureshi said.

“It’s creating free support for students at a time when learning loss is very prevalent. It’s taking a big load off of teachers’ shoulders who are dealing with the various learning needs of each student in various modalities now,” Qureshi said. “At the same time it’s helping Florida Poly keep an eye on young talent that they can potentially pull into the institution either by direct branding or direct communication back to the students.”

That’s especially key since many high schools have restricted on-campus recruiting visits by universities during the pandemic.

In a news release, Lakeland-based Florida Poly said teachers from nine schools are participating. The high schools are located in Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Orange, Brevard, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Florida Poly said it expects to expand the program to more schools in the spring semester.

The partnership was featured in Forbes, which described it as an initiative to combat the STEM learning loss brought on by Covid-19.

Working with high school students is bit of a new direction for Knack, but not unprecedented. The company announced earlier this year it was working with Florida Power and Light and Community Partners of South Florida to provide tutoring, Google Chromebooks, and WiFi hot spots to K-12 students in need across Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

Knack will announce additional K-12 initiatives in the next few months, Qureshi said. “If there’s an opportunity for Knack to be helpful in ways the world needs it as it relates to academic support, we want to be helpful.”

Knack has continued to grow through the pandemic. The company now has a team of 16 full-time employees, most of them in Tampa but others who work from around the country. The company is hiring and looking for great talent, Qureshi said. “We’re grateful to be hiring in a climate when many companies are not.”

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