When the ‘Shark’ Bites

Story by Rylee Robinson

Summit students in Colleen Ites’ Physics and Design class recently completed a project improving and changing everyday items – but it doesn’t stop there.

The next step for the students’ completed products is to make a video resembling ‘Shark Tank’ (a TV show where a group of investors listen to product pitches). They will present their provisional patent paperwork, product plan, and prototype to Tej Dhawan, a Johnston parent and co-founder of Plains Angels (a group of investors for new entrepreneurs and inventors). Dhawan will answer student questions and give advice on how to best market their ‘Shark Tank’ videos.

“It’s interesting to see the inventions in a raw stage,” said Dhawan. “They are thinking about the problems they’ve encountered and approaches to solve them. My job is to help simplify the solutions and challenge the students to see if they’re safe, reproducible and marketable.”

To get students excited for the next step in their project they watched videos of two kids who presented their products to the ‘Sharks’ and were discouraged by either all or most. These kids started their businesses at the ages of four and a half and nine. Watching these children be discouraged by well respected businessmen/women and keep persevering instilled confidence in Ites’ students and their own ideas.

“The students get to let their knowledge shine,” said Ites. “We get to capitalize their strengths and develop their other skills.”

Continuing this project also provides students with another opportunity to participate in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) related topics. They learn which audiences to target and how marketing translates digitally and visually. Students are able to take full advantage of their iPads by utilizing apps like iMovie, Garageband, and Animoto.

“This video project gives students the long term view of their projects,” said Ites. “It’s not only cross-curricular, it teaches them how to discuss their work in a professional manner and how to handle themselves on camera.”

Students in Ites’ Physics and Design class are learning the importance of professionalism and execution by turning their ideas into reality and making them thrive.

“Inventions are frequently and constantly refined,” said Dhawan. “I was able to share with them ideas on revisions and critiques, teaching them that this will not be start-and-stop but rather a process of iteration and improvement.”