shark tank

IN THE TANK — Students at Maple Crest STEM Middle School present their projects to the panel of “sharks.” 

Last week Maple Crest STEM Middle School students faced a school of sharks.

As the culmination in a series of intertwined lessons, nine sixth-grade teams showcased a product of their design, along with an accompanying business plan, to a panel of judges just like contestants do in the television series Shark Tank.

The goal, according to Kokomo School Corporation K-12 STEM coordinator Aaron Hyman, was to imbue the students with the skills called for in the modern world.

“These are the 21st century skills we feel are most important for them down the road, whether that’s a couple years down the road at high school, whether they choose to go to college, or whether they choose to stick around and go right into the work force at a place like Chrysler,” said Hyman. “These skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and the communication aspect is only going to provide more growth for them.”

The group projects started with science courses, consisting of an examination of the effects of a concussion. In language arts, the sixth graders read non-fiction publications to further their knowledge on the subject, and then they moved on to an experiment involving an egg drop to creatively find solutions for protecting the human brain. And then there were financials of selling a product, which were addressed through math classes.

The projects eventually entailed the invention of a specific piece of sports safety equipment. For example, Ashlynne Harris, Haven Sell, and Ashley Crum formed the company AHA Equine Safety Inc. Their product, a glove designed to prevent hand injuries while falling from horseback, was presented to the Shark Tank panel of five judges.

The classes leading up to the presentation paid off with students preparing statistics supporting their product and financials as well.

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AHA Equine Safety Inc. anticipated selling their gloves for $20 to $40 for two pair of gloves and also asked the sharks for an investment of $850,000 for materials, employees, and the rent for factory space. For their investment, sharks would receive six percent of company profits a year.

“Close to 15 million people ride ponies and horses everywhere, not just the U.S. alone,” said Harris during her group’s presentation. “About 75,000 of those are injured when falling off their horses, and 26.7 percent of all injuries are fractures to the hands or basically anywhere on the body. Our product will help prevent injuries to hands or fingers.”

The groups also put together sales strategies, and AHA Equine Safety Inc. intended to advertise through various mediums and support online purchases.

While the sharks didn’t deliver offers, they did instead critique the students on their presentation, helping fill in the gaps students may have missed during the complicated process.

For example, panel member Santos Salinas, a financial advisor for Edward Jones, raised concerns about profit points with AHA Equine Safety Inc., which could scare off potential investors.

Regardless, the extensive lessons the students incurred through the creativity of product creation, to the problem solving of calculating manufacturing costs, Principal Kathryn Reckard said the students advanced their skills in a meaningful, positive manner.

“For me, as an educator, I want to feel good about the students that we produce here at Maple Crest,” said Reckard. “You will find with this unit, as well as all of or STEM units, they are really pushing student thinking and pushing them outside their comfort zone. So, I know if students have this experience now they will be more successful in the future when they get to the work force, when they go to college, or whatever their path may be.”