'Shark Tank' turns high school students into entrepreneurs

Shark Tank class

Pictured: Student entrepreneurs from Big Spring High School make their pitch to a panel of local investors.

On the popular TV show "Shark Tank," entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors. At Big Spring High School, students are pitching the ideas in an innovative learning program that immerses students in the real world of business.

Students at the Cumberland County school spent the last year building companies from the ground up and learning a lot about life in the process.

"We began the course by having students develop a list of problems," said Cherie Powell, Big Spring High School business teacher and Business Department chair. "We called it the 'what bugs me list.' All the things that go on around you, and you wish there was a better way to do it."

After developing the list, students were put into teams. Each team chose a problem from their list that would be worth solving.

"They completed research, found out who had the problem, and from there developed a solution to that problem," Powell said. "They then developed that solution into a product that is actually going to be marketed, provided they obtain funding."

The student ideas were on par with some of the inventive products and services you hear about on "Shark Tank."

One group started "Find My Fido," a company that designs tracking devices for runaway dogs. Another called itself PrismPostal and designed a sensor that goes in your mailbox to tell you whether you have mail.

The students have received a lot of guidance along the way from Powell and Lisa Black, Big Spring's career coordinator. They also learned from business professionals serving as mentors and local business coaches who visited the class to share lessons from their experiences.

"It's interesting to learn from entrepreneurs because we connect with people from the outside world, instead of just the classroom," said Samantha Crouse, a sophomore.

The course culminated with a "Shark Tank"-style presentation of each group's business idea to potential investors who asked questions, challenging the students' knowledge and putting their nerves to the test.

"They are learning all kinds of skills that most students don't have an opportunity to gain until they enter the workforce," Powell said. "They're learning how to work as a team, manage personality conflicts, and problem-solve.  These are all things you can't look up in a book, but actually have to work through."


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