IHS Engineering Teams Deliver Product Pitches & Win Funding
It went a lot like the popular television show Shark Tank – cool products, polished pitches, and high stakes as aspiring entrepreneurs stated their case for funding before a panel of judges.
Eight student teams from Ithaca High School each spent several weeks developing the concept for a new engineering design, conducting market analysis, refining a business plan, and preparing a funding pitch. In some cases, they also provided hands-on prototypes. Then, on December 17, the teams presented their pitches before a distinguished four-member panel. More than $2,000 in real funding for further product development was at stake.
The groups made pitches during "Pitch Night" to a panel that featured: district Superintendent Luvelle Brown; Tompkins Cortland Community College's chair of the Entrepreneurialism Department, Tim McCabe; Ithaca College business school dean Sean Reid, and Cornell University Director or Entrepreneurship Zachary Shulman.
The teams went in various innovative directions with their products – a stand-up vehicle for people with limited mobility (called UNO, short for “up-and-out”); the Disco Buggy, a propane-fueled demonstration buggy; a small hydro-powered device for charging electronic devices in the wilderness; a controller for electric vehicle motors; an automated control device to raise and lower plastic greenhouse covers; a sweat-suppressing glove for video gamers; a mobile app packaging multiple popular games together; and a high-performance dustpan.
All eight teams received at least partial funding for their projects. Four teams received the full amount of funding they requested. Those teams are UNO ($375), the hydro charger ($350), the Disco Buggy ($320), and the electric motor controller ($300).
“Pitch Night” is part of the Engineering Design & Development (EDD) course at Ithaca High School. Taught by Scott Breigle and Ian Krywe, EDD is the capstone course in Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a five-course sequence of engineering classes. Students who perform well in PLTW courses can receive college credit from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
PLTW and EDD give students both experience and challenges that they don’t get in other courses at the high school.
“Mr. Krywe and I begin the year by letting the students know that this class will be different than any other class they have taken,” said Breigle. “We emphasize with the students that they should not look at us as teachers but as facilitators for their groups.”
IHS was an early adopter of the PLTW curriculum in the late 1990s, and Pitch Night was created in 2014. It is the brainchild of Illa Burbank, the President of IthacaSTEM Advocates, an affiliate of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI). Burbank created Pitch Night based on her own experience with the capstone course in the MBA program at Ithaca College, which involved similar entrepreneurial pitches.
Burbank has spearheaded fundraising for Pitch Night in both 2014 and 2015. Sponsors of this year’s event included Cornell Engineering, Tompkins Insurance, Cabrera Research, Tompkins County Area Development, CFCU Community Credit Union, and other donors to IthacaSTEM Advocates. Burbank also connected the teams with expert mentors from Cornell, IC, Advion, Taitem Engineering, BorgWarner, Cabrera Research, the venture capital company Greengage, and the business incubator Rev.
“Pitch Night illustrates the amazing things that students can accomplish, even in just a few short weeks since the start of school. It gives them a unique way to apply their classroom learning to real-world situations.” says Burbank. “It also shows the power of collaboration with the community.”
Click here for a full table of team names, members, products, and funding awards.
To see more photos, click here.