Black women-led STEMuli is building the future with educational tech platform for over 29 million students

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 23, 2024 11:58 AM EDT
Taylor Shead. Photo credit: Plano Magazine

It is a popular saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But what if Jack could work and play to become a brilliant boy? Taylor Shead founded STEMuli, a modern learning platform that merges games and schoolwork in the virtual realm to engage the $1.9 trillion education tech market. The company’s technology has so far impacted over 29 million students across the world.

Shead’s passion for accessibility in education stems from an event that she describes as causing her turmoil and grief. She was a Division I basketball player at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and on the way to achieving her dream of becoming a facial reconstruction surgeon. Unfortunately, she struggled in her first year of college and lost her scholarship. Shead was frustrated that technology companies had not yet begun to integrate technology and schoolwork.

Juggling a college sports career with academics motivated Shead to create STEMuli.

“When I would go on the road as a college athlete, my education wasn’t everywhere I was. I was looking at these apps on my phone like, how does this make sense? If I’m flying all around the country playing basketball, why are my notes not here? Accessibility to education is the problem that I experienced.”

In 2016, Shead began working with the Dallas Independent School District to develop PTECH, a platform to prepare them for life after high school through mentorship and internships. The program connected high schools with industry partners from companies such as American Airlines, Southwest, and IBM. Students on the platform went on to earn $1.7 million from summer internships. In an attempt to build a digital space that unifies students, educators, textbook publishers, and corporate partners, Shead and Dallas ISD created the first educational metaverse integrated into public schools.

STEMuli initially utilized video chat and online communication to develop a virtual classroom. It then added a 3D game-based platform that integrates state curriculum standards with a playable hero’s quest to the core classroom. The game can supplement classroom lessons and can be taken home by students to play after school. STEMuli is leveraging the power of online communities, AI, and game-based learning to create a metaverse ecosystem that allows students to interact with each other.

Additionally, the company is adaptive and specialized to each student, locates them in their learning journey and guides them on a path to their goal. It also connects students with companies for mentors and internships to help develop their skill sets. The platform shows students a wide range of ways to invest money and start businesses. STEMuli does not only benefit learners but also alleviates stress on teachers and relieves the teacher shortage.

STEMuli is driving change through its innovative and transformative partnerships with schools. The company helped girls at Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth become proficient in Algebra I by building it into a video game. Its Navigator technology has induced decreased drop-out rates, increased graduation rates, and increased Algebra 1 proficiency, and is used by over 29 million students across the world. Students at Dallas Hybrid Prep, Texas where the Metaverse was co-designed have outpaced the rest of the district in test scores.

“We’re bringing this technology to the country’s largest urban school districts, of which a majority of the students are economically disadvantaged. Our vision is to improve learning outcomes by providing all students with an experience that rivals playing their favorite video game,” Shead said about her vision for STEMuli.

Last year, STEMuli acquired and Oppti, two Black-owned education tech companies. Naomi Thomas built her first computer at six years old, worked with Google, founded and serves as the role of Head of Digital for the company. Khiry Kemp co-founded Oppti and came on board as Head of Operations following the merger. The collaboration was a result of the founder’s meeting at Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Entrepreneur in Residence incubator.

STEMuli earned $3.25 million in a seed funding round to propel its nationwide expansion. It is betting big on AI and video games to drive student engagement across all subjects.