By Dorothy K. LaMantia | Correspondent
In the auditorium of St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, a painting of a swimming shark was set at center stage the morning of May 9. Along a side wall stood 11 eye-catching display boards pitching ingenious products, with names like Ice Bracers, Lighty Scrunchies, Fold the Bowl, the Flench, Bright Bands and Double Decker Deluxe.
That day, the seventh- and eighth-grade students, who for almost two months had been divided into 11 separate teams, faced the final round of “Shark Tank,” their own version of the popular reality TV show in which entrepreneurs seeking investors pitch their products to business moguls.
Earlier in the week, teachers and administrators judged the projects to narrow the field to six finalists who would face the sharks, all leaders of the local business community.
Since March, the students immersed themselves in the study of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), dedicating their classroom and free time to design and develop a product and also a business plan to produce and market it. In other words, they became entrepreneurs.
The multi-faceted, intensive process included researching competition, pricing and marketing strategies, using surveys to receive feedback to modify or improve the invention and working as a team.
“This has been STEM at its finest,” said Chrissy Dashkavich, eighth-grade homeroom teacher and math/science teacher, who proposed and monitored the project.
Students, teachers and parents filled the audience as the five sharks, Robert Sabosik of Sabosik Flooring and mayor of Point Pleasant Borough; Tom De Falcon, civil engineer; Ryan Dunn, Barnegat Bay Marina; Becky Piemonte, Bree Ana featuring Styles in Silver, and Christian Tranger, Beaver Dam Hardware took their seats onstage.
With display boards and product model in hand and an investment price and profit percentage rolling off their tongues, one team at a time appeared for their five-to-10 minutes before the sharks, who posed questions and made recommendations as needed. Supplied with a rubric from Dashkavich, sharks judged each group on their creativity, knowledge and understanding of business plan, and presentation.
First prize was awarded to the team that developed the Flench, an outdoor bench that flips its seat to the dry side, rendering it usable even on rainy days. Flench is outfitted with solar-powered evaporator lines to hasten drying, printed directions on how to “flip it” and it has a locking mechanism to ensure safe seating.
Placing second was the team that developed the Double Decker Deluxe, a two-tier serving tray to help speed up service at restaurants. It features space for two plates, three cupholders and includes a more than 14 pound capacity.
The third-place Bright Band is designed by a team to ensure travelers on a cruise that they will never be left stranded following an on-shore excursion. The team plans to sell the silicon bands to cruiselines, who will preset each band with an alarm programmed to beep as return time approaches.
As the students celebrated after the awards were announced, Mayor Sabosik expressed his admiration for the students. “The teams showed such unity. The presentations were phenomenal. The students were respectful and knowledgeable and showed great team spirit. This is why I believe in Catholic education,” said Sabosik, whose children and grandchildren also attended St. Peter School.