IMSA Unveals $1.9 Million 'Innovation Hub' Made Possible By YouTube Co-Founder

IMSA Unveals $1.9 Million ‘Innovation Hub’ Made Possible By YouTube Co-Founder


Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube and AVOS Systems, Inc., has designated a $1 million lead gift, through the Schwab Charitable Fund, to the IMSA Fund for Advancement of Education to benefit his alma mater, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

The gift will be toward the construction of a $1.9 million, 6,400-square-foot Innovation Hub — an open space design concept for STEM collaboration and development. The Hub will feature cutting-edge resources that enable IMSA students and leading entrepreneurs, faculty, mentors, IMSA alumni, the Fox Valley business community and other students to ideate and collaborate.

The new space, coined as “IMSA’s new front door,” will be modeled in part after the highly successful digital co-op, 1871, in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. IMSA partners with 1871 to advance Chicago-area innovation and economic development and expand opportunities for entrepreneurial students.

“IMSA helped guide me to the tools and knowledge I needed to develop my ideas into a successful business, but those tools keep evolving,” said Chen, who returned to IMSA’s campus last spring and spoke with students who were launching their own startups.

“The Innovation Hub will bring the latest in entrepreneurial incubation to Aurora, the Fox Valley, and the western Chicago suburbs, allowing the Academy to help IMSA students, and even students from across the state, develop their ideas and stretch their inventive minds even more,” he added.

The Innovation Hub will feature a modern open space design optimized for collaboration, furnished with highly advanced technology such as 3D workstations, a touch screen video wall, and 3D scanners and printers. The new space will serve as a base of connectivity between IMSA’s TALENT (Total Applied Learning for ENTrepreneurs) program and entrepreneurs, teachers, mentors, the Fox Valley business community and startup incubators.

“Our future STEM innovators are today’s teens, teens who need opportunities and resources, including physical spaces conducive for collaboration and breakthrough thinking, to help them learn how to take concepts from ideas to start up and early growth,” IMSA President Catherine C. Veal said. “This new space will be a hub of creative energy and startup culture.”

Chen’s donation continues a history of investment to assist IMSA by alumni who have been successful in Silicon Valley, Chicago and other areas, including a $600,000 donation by an anonymous alumnus, $200,000 from Mike McCool ’91, a founding creator at Netscape, $100,000 from Facebook employee David Kang ’96 and his wife Shirley, plus a major gift by OkCupid co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan ’95 and his wife, Jessica Droste Yagan ‘95, an executive at McDonalds USA.

Sheila MB Griffin, chairman of IMSA’s Board of Trustees, said the generosity of Chen and others will inspire the next generation of STEM innovators and entrepreneurs to “dream big and bring their ideas to life.”

“We are thrilled to see more and more evidence of IMSA’s role in developing technology entrepreneurs whose pioneering products and companies change our world and advance the human condition, and who then pay it forward by giving back,” she said.

IMSA Fund President and Chicago business leader John Hoesley, himself an IMSA alumnus noted: “It’s important that the community comes together to fund the balance of this project, as the TALENT program not only serves IMSA’s residential students, but also other students statewide and beyond while further connecting IMSA to the local business community and Chicagoland Innovation network.”

The Innovation Hub will be home to the IMSA TALENT program, internships, business startup pitch contests, workshops, networking events, Fox Valley entrepreneurship programs, plus more yet to be imagined.  It is hoped that the space will be ready to occupy by late 2015 or early 2016.

in2 logo 271x144

The Story Behind the Name

IMSA and stakeholders participated in four workshops this past fall, led by Limered Studio (Chicago) that focused on positioning and competition, image & branding and ideation. Additionally several IMSA alumni were interviewed about the hub before names were considered and IN2 selected.

“IN2” is a highly conceptual name that plays upon the idea of both innovation and inquiry – bridging businesses and the educational focus at IMSA. It plays on the concept of bringing both innovation and inquiry into practice at IMSA and on the concept of what is put “into” the center to make things happen – intuition, ingenuity, ideas, exploration, knowledge, experimentation, etc.

It is short, memorable and easy to say. It leaves room for curiosity and play without having to explain too much.

The three lines composing the “2” represent the different journeys of students through time and the paths that come together at IMSA through innovative practices, inquisitive learning, and problem-solving processes.

“Jan. 21 is more than the long-awaited announcement of IMSA’s new innovation center name – it is the culmination of a year’s worth of sharing and synthesizing ideas and involving stakeholders in creating the first secondary school location in the Illinois innovation hub ecosystem,” said Chief Innovation Officer Britta McKenna. “Student interaction with peers, teachers, mentors, and community partners is at the heart of what makes IMSA a unique learning laboratory, and this event gets us one step closer to realizing our new collaboration space that will prepare students for the future of STEM.”

Click HERE for a one-page information sheet about the project.

To learn more about IN2, contact Britta McKenna at or (630) 907-5934.  If you’d like to provide financial support for this exciting community project, please contact Paul Milano at pmilano@imsa.eduor (630) 907-5989.

About IMSA

The internationally recognized Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  As a teaching and learning laboratory created by the State of Illinois, IMSA enrolls academically talented Illinois students (grades 10-12) in its advanced, residential college preparatory program, and it serves thousands of educators and students in Illinois and beyond through innovative instructional programs that foster imagination and inquiry. IMSA also advances education through research, groundbreaking ventures and strategic partnerships. (

The IMSA Fund for Advancement of Education is a 501 not-for-profit corporation that accepts and distributes gifts and grants from the private sector to support IMSA’s mission and work. These contributions support programs and services for IMSA students and staff, other Illinois students, and educators in Illinois and beyond; activities for IMSA alumni and parents; and IMSA Fund operations including donor cultivation and recognition.(

SOURCE: IMSA press release