Seniors dive into the Shark Tank

December 10, 2017 — by Patrick Li and Muthu Palaniappan

After alumnus Jason Li got a chance to present his startup idea, iReTron, to a panel of entrepreneurs on ABC’s “Shark Tank,”  in 2014, AP Gov/Econ teachers Kirk Abe and Mike Davey decided to create an assignment inspired by Li’s experience.

AP Gov/Econ teachers Margarita Morelle and Hanna Chen started assigning the project this year.

Seniors pitch an original product or service to a panel of business people or those with a business background. Throughout first semester, students got class time to create an idea to present to a panel of real-life sharks.

The sharks, who came to class to listen to the pitches on Dec. 7 and 8, were Andrew Krcik, who has worked for 35 years in the marketing industry; Amanda Brophy, a project manager at Google; Mike Chen, a senior manager at Apple; and Erik Frieberg, a senior vice president at VMWare.

The sharks have all learned about cultivating a business themselves and bring valuable insights and advice to students.

“I think it is one of the most rewarding projects of the class,” Abe said. “In the past, students have gotten a lot out of this, and some students have had their interest sparked in fields such as marketing, economics or business.”

Some of the ideas students presented included an allergen-tester, an edible Taco Tape and a pair of BlueTooth headphones that detect a user’s mood.

Senior Michael Xue, who is in Morelle’s class, pitched a GPS sticker that can track users’ belongings and is linked to a mobile application. Xue said he learned about the process of promoting a product and researching technology and finance.

“I had not heard about other people’s experiences with this project,” Xue said. “I think everyone is having a great experience working together and learning about something new.”

Chen added that in the past, she has gotten feedback to have more group work in her curriculum. This prompted her to incorporate the Shark Tank project in her AP Gov/Econ class.

This year, the sharks made deals with more than half of the groups.

“In the past we’ve had some sharks say that if the company was real, they would have invested,” Abe said.

Throughout the semester, students have certain checkpoints that they have to reach, such as submitting business plans and creating the write-up for their idea. Much like a real start-up, students cultivate their projects for several months before settling on their perfect pitch.

“The process so far is pretty smooth,” Xue said. “Mrs. Morelle sets deadlines every few weeks for a small portion of the project.”

The Shark Tank project allows students to learn about entrepreneurship and business, subjects not typically taught in typical high school classes.

For instance, 2017 alumnus Jonathan Yun, currently studying computer science at the University of Michigan, designed a laptop case that doubled as a laptop stand.

Building a business plan and creating an executive summary allowed Yun to experience exactly what goes into starting a business.

“It helped me establish an interest in business because I wanted to not only be involved in the technical aspect of projects but also I enjoy presenting my findings,” Yun said. “Now I’m trying to minor in business.”


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