What do smart people want? Sue Khim answered that question by launching a problem-solving site for STEM learners.

In many places, a student’s “intellect” is measured by a standardized test, where the only real skill is memorization.

“Instead of waiting for the national exams to change, or colleges to adapt, I started Brilliant to go and find these people and create a more meaningful way for them to get noticed,” Sue Khim told the crowd  at TedXUChicago.

She began with a simple question: What do smart people like?

Slowly, she realized the answers: Smart people like a challenge. Smart people like socializing with brainy peers. And smart people like to be noticed–and commended–for their hard work.

In launching Brilliant, an online community that boasts 80,000 users from 135 countries, Khim created a challenging intellectual environment that checks off all three.

“We built a site where students can solve hard problems in math, science, and engineering–going deeper–and are much more advanced than what is usually covered in school,” she said.

Start-ups have a huge demand for talented people, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But those job requirements are rapidly changing, so students must “adapt to jobs that may not exist yet, using skills we don’t yet have words for, using technologies we’re still inventing,” she said.

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